As I sit here in one of my favorite coffeeshops near my apartment at 5:51 on a Wednesday afternoon, I’m having a hard time coming up with something to write about. Not because I have nothing to say, but more so that I don’t have the right words to sum up my thoughts about my semester thus far. Studying abroad is truly such a strange thing to do. Why would I want to put myself in a place where people have a hard time understanding me? Why would I leave the life I was so comfortable in and was loving? Why throw myself into a situation that I know is going to be difficult and that will be challenging for 4 1/2 months? These kinds of questions were at the front of my mind leading up to my semester abroad and even in the first weeks here, but oh man have these questions been answered. So I guess that’s what I’m going to attempt to do in this post, but trust me when I say that you truly can’t fully understand these answers until you are outside of your comfort zone and are doing the things that you never thought you could do.
A lot of people in my life that I spoke with about studying abroad constantly gave me this look of “you’re going where…?” when I told them about where I’d be living for the next few months. I can understand those looks, after all I am living in a third world country. These looks were slightly discouraging and worried me a little, but now that I’m here, now that I’m fully immersed into this culture, I can honestly say that I LOVE it here. Ecuador is an incredible place and I highly recommend that everyone gets here A.S.A.P. There is beauty in the mountains, parks, lakes, beaches; basically anywhere you go is surely going to provide you with the best views. Even more than that, the people here are special. They are kind and are interested in knowing some of your story. Most of the time when I take a taxi the driver asks me where I’m from (it’s pretty obvious that I’m not Ecuadorian as you can imagine) and what I’m doing in Quito. The family relationship here is also unique. Families care for one another deeply, for example my host mom’s sons come over for lunch every day even though they have their own families now. They love hard here and it is a really heartwarming thing to see. I do see the poverty and the hardships that the people face, but they face these things with strength and with a heart for change.
About the language barrier, yeah it is challenging. I am still struggling with expressing every thought in Spanish, however I am improving in various aspects of the language for sure. It was intimidating in the beginning, but I’ve learned that the only way to get better is to practice and to learn from the many mistakes I make. It’s really great to see myself growing in my understanding of the language and in being able to humble myself in my weaknesses.
I have learned far more about the world, myself, and life in general in my almost two months here than I ever could have imagined. I am so thankful that I have the opportunity to live in another country for a semester (thanks Mom & Dad) and believe that everyone should experience a new culture. Whether it’s spending a semester abroad or traveling or doing missions somewhere new, go out and immerse yourself in the world! There is no better way to learn and to understand others than by experiencing cultural differences and accepting the newness that they bring. Get outside of your comfort zone and the results will be life changing. Yes it’s challenging, but oh so rewarding. I could go on and on about the importance of stepping into these experiences, but this post is long enough. Ecuador, you are a new home and I can’t wait to see what the rest of this semester brings!