Dear Study Abroad Quito,
You’ve changed me and my story. Maybe rather than changed, you added to my story. 4.5 months is not a long time, but it is plenty of time to be transformed, renewed, and strengthened. You were a risky choice in my college career because I had to give up a semester at Hope to become someone open to the unknown. The opportunity you presented me gave me a new posture of standing with opened hands toward my Heavenly Father for whatever He had in this experience for me, and for the life He has in front of me.
Thank you study abroad for giving me confidence, independence, vulnerability and new strength. I am more self-assured because I escaped comparison and encountered contentment in the person the Lord created me to be. I am more independent because of my time spent alone in a place of adventure. I am willing to let down my guard, and to ask and receive help when it is needed. I have been granted new strength in the midst of identifying the lies the world would like me to believe.
You taught me that some things cannot be planned, but rather are to be figured out step-by-step as they come. You showed me a new perspective of the same world I live in and gave me a spirit of gratitude for the nation in which I was born. You placed me in a new culture to live for a semester that inspires me to change the way I live within my own culture when I return home.
Thank you for the opportunity to be immersed in a new language, culture, and landscape. It provided me with incredible travel opportunities to locations that most of the world have no idea exist. Thank you for a semester of lightened class work so that I could take the time to focus on learning to care for myself, and learning the importance of being still, daily. Thank you for taking away my comforts of having my family, friends, and regular activities always at my fingertips—for showing me that my strength, assurance, and joy can only come from the source of having the presence of the Lord as the first place I run to. Ultimately, you taught me to live where my feet are—not one step forward nor one step back through the lives of Ecuadorians.
Ecuador, I am going to miss your breathtaking landscapes that surround me daily. I am going to miss the tranquility of your lifestyle and living in a culture where people focus on people above their work. I am going to miss the simplicity of life you demonstrate. I am going to miss having free time to plan my own schedule and not have to worry about other demands. But, more than missing things from this semester, I feel forever thankful for the time you’ve given me to learn and experience this way of living. I feel rejuvenated and ready to see how I can modify my life in the United States to better reflect the life lessons I’ve learned this semester.
Hasta luego, Ecuador—gracias, gracias y gracias!