Reflections on Being Back in the United States

Claire Fishman
May 23, 2013

This is now my fourth full day back in the United States, and it’s strange how quickly the time is passing, yet how it also feels like I just left Quito yesterday. I was very much reminded of the differences in paces of life in Ecuador vs. the United States when I went to get some falafel for lunch at a restaurant in my neighborhood. While waiting for my food, I accidentally picked up a stranger’s sandwich, thinking it was mine, and let’s just say his reaction was anything but understanding. Furthermore, it seemed like many people getting food were being demanding and impatient. Yes, it was crowded, and I may have been oversensitive to cultural differences, but it’s definitely something I noticed. It made me miss Ecuador’s laid-back pace of life. And I may have almost thanked the cashier with “Gracias” :)

I miss Ecuador a lot, but at the same time, I am excited for the summer and seeing my friends from home. I definitely want to stay busy, but at the same time, I don’t want to get so absorbed in my life back in the US that I forget about my experiences in Ecuador and what I learned there. And so, some goals for myself…

1. Keep speaking Spanish.

Honestly, if I can’t figure out a way to keep speaking Spanish in New York City, I’ve hardly invested any effort in doing so. But in all seriousness, I’m hoping to find some way to practice speaking Spanish on a regular basis. In addition to things like listening to Spanish music, watching Spanish movies/TV, and reading books in Spanish, I’m hoping to find some sort of volunteer opportunity where I would have the opportunity to speak Spanish. If anyone has any suggestions, please let me know!  :)

2. Keep Ecuadorian culture as part of my life.

Before coming to Ecuador, I didn’t realize that the city in which I’ve lived in for 21 years has a large Ecuadorian population. So I’ll try to explore the Ecuadorian culture in NYC, such as by heading out to Queens to find an Ecuadorian restaurant. In addition, I can keep Ecuadorian culture in my life by being the one to share aspects of the culture, like by cooking Ecuadorian dishes.

3. Integrating Ecuador’s attitude of enjoying the present and “stopping to smell the roses” into my life.

That’s not to say that I’m not going to be busy this summer. I definitely hope to be, and I do enjoy staying busy. But what it does mean is that I hope to spend some time not always rushing from one place to the other, and reflecting on my experiences. After all, the journey can be just as important as the destination, right? This might end up applying a bit more to when I’m back in school, however. I know I’ll be really busy once the semester starts and have far more academic work than I did this past semester, but I’m going to try to make sure I don’t spend all my time studying. And I’m really going to try not to pull any more all-nighters for papers/tests.

4. Keep in touch with my host family.

In the age of Facebook, Skype, and email, it’s easier than ever to stay in touch with people, and I should definitely take advantage of that. I hope to continue to have a relationship with my host family, update them on my life, and hear updates from their life. And if I ever do get a chance to return to Ecuador, it would be great to be able to see them again. Plus, I have to go back because I still need to climb Cotoapaxi!

5. Share my study abroad experience with friends and family.

Fortunately, even though I’ve left Ecuador, I have a ridiculous number of photos as memories that I can show to friends and family. And in addition, I’m excited to be able to hear about my friends’ study abroad experiences.

I want to end this post with the story of Zach Sobiech, an 18 year old from Minnesota who passed away on May 20, 2013, from osteosarcoma, a bone cancer. This might seem entirely irrelevant, but yesterday I watched a documentary called My Last Days that the media company SoulPancake made about Zach’s life. It’s really powerful, and the underlying message it leaves you with is the importance of appreciating life and living each day to the fullest. Yes, a message we’ve all heard thousands of times, but bear with me. Having returned home from Quito only several days before, I was feeling sad and unproductive, used to being busy and having plenty of things to explore each day. Then I watched the documentary about Zach and was inspired. I might be back home now and feel like I have nothing to do, but it’s up to me to go out and do things. My semester in Ecuador may be over, but that doesn’t mean I can’t take what I’ve learned there and create new experiences and new memories. Zach’s life may have been short, but he really took advantage of all the time he had and lived life to the fullest, while never forgetting about the needs of those around him. He’s truly an inspiration and his story should be shared. He’s also a fantastic musician, with his most recent song “Clouds” hitting #1 on the iTunes single chart. All proceeds from the song go to the Zach Sobiech Osteosarcoma Fund, so start buying!

For more information on Zach’s story, the link to his documentary, or to donate to the Zach Sobiech Osteosarcoma Fund, click the following link:

Ecuador taught me to further appreciate living in the moment, and Zach’s story inspired me to continue doing so after returning home. So thank you…and gracias:)

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Claire Fishman

<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);">Claire Fishman is a junior at Brandeis University, majoring in Psychology. Outside of class, she enjoys singing with the university&rsquo;s chorus and playing flute with a student orchestra. Her hobbies include reading, writing, cooking. Claire has traveled to Central America twice (Costa Rica and Honduras), but this will be her first time in South America. Despite having grown up in a large city, she loves spending time in nature, and looks forward to exploring the biodiversity of Ecuador. As someone who loves to travel and try new things, Claire is thrilled to be embarking on this adventure!</span></p>

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