It’s been almost two weeks since I returned from Ecuador. Coming home that first day, I couldn’t believe that just two months ago, I had stood in the same place getting ready for my flight there!
Family and friends have asked me how my trip went. The truth is, I can’t do Ecuador any justice! From that first breakfast with my host mother, to our night hike in the Amazon, to arriving in the Galápagos and seeing the beautiful Playa Mann right outside the door of the GAIAS building–I keep finding myself smiling, unable to truly express how much I learned from this trip. After a little thought, I came up with three main things I learned (out of ALL of the countless things!) that sum up Ecuador Summer 2014.
1. If you see a fork in the road, take it–and use it to eat the plantains! Ecuador brought me so many opportunities to get out of my comfort zone. Every meal held a new surprise, but I had promised myself prior to leaving Ohio that I would eat anything that was put in front of me. Boy, was I glad I kept my promise! Taking little “risks,” even as silly as eating an unfamiliar lunch, really helped me reach out of my comfort zone and get the most out of my trip.
2. Talk to people–any chance you get! Although I didn’t know any Spanish before coming to Ecuador (none at all!) I left able to understand most conversations around me and to make my way around. I can’t say I would have learned so much Spanish if I hadn’t used every opportunity to just speak with people. Since I’m usually pretty quiet, I made sure to speak up whenever possible–whether it was just with my host family, or the professors, or a local–in order to learn more.
3. Keep an open mind, and watch your heart open up too. There were many times throughout the trip when I could have closed myself off from my surroundings–whether that means staying in at night instead of joining the IES group out on the town, or not making an effort to get to know my peers. At times, it was tough to find the energy to go out and socialize. But from the start, my roomies and I made a pact to go out almost every night and see something new, even if we were tired. This pact paid off! We saw more of Quito and the Galapagos than those who stayed in more often, and we grew closer as friends. We made plans and followed through, and now looking back, I can see how my perspective has broadened, and how big my heart has grown in the process.
I wouldn’t trade these memories for anything in the world! From snow-capped mountains to turquoise oceans, from cloudy Quito to sunny San Cristóbal, I learned more than I ever thought possible. Our trip may be over, but I’ll always remember what I learned from this beautiful place.
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<p><span style="color: rgb(29, 29, 29); font-family: Arial, Verdana, sans-serif; font-size: 12px; line-height: normal; background-color: rgb(237, 237, 237);">I'm a sophomore from a small Midwestern university with one hand on my notebook and pen, and the other on "the big picture." As an International Studies major with a concentration in Environmental Sustainability and a student writer on campus, I love using my writing to connect the dots between my own life and the lives of people across the globe. I explore, I discover, I observe--and then I write.</span></p>