I’m at that point – it’s starting to feel normal for me to be living in Ecuador. I can only call this place home thanks to the friends I’ve made, my host family, and my fantastic course curriculum.
Before coming to Ecuador, I was most nervous about staying in a host family. How in the world would I communicate when I do not speak Spanish? What if I react badly to their food? What if I don’t get along with a family member... or worse... their dog?!
My anxiety vanished when I met my host mom (who picked me up at the airport at 2am!) and insisted that this is my new home. Sure, I don’t speak great (or even good) Spanish, but the families here are very understanding.
It seems that all of my IES friends have had positive experiences so far because the families in Ecuador take you in as one of their own! My host mom frequently hosts students from IES, and she was sympathetic to the fact that I was in a new environment. My host family in particular seems to have frequent visitors-many who are American-and it is quite inspiring to meet and hear the life experiences of people who travel frequently.
Food here is absolutely amazing. Lunch is the biggest meal, and it usually features meat or fish, rice, and some vegetables. Lunch is served with fruit juice and frequently with soup and popcorn (yes, you put the popcorn in the soup). The fruit is unbelievable–I have tried so many new kinds of fruit that don't even have English translations. Breakfast varies based on the home, but it seems that bread and eggs are common. Dinner is usually smaller, but similar to lunch (in my experience).
HOWEVER – I did get sick from my change in diet, as I used to be a vegetarian before coming to Ecuador. I gave up being vegetarian because I wanted to fully experience the food and culture here, but eating SO MUCH meat was a big change for me.
Advice for anyone going abroad in the future: Try to slowly adjust to new food. If you eat a lot of veggies at home, eat veggies in the new culture. Find food at the supermarket that is similar to what you eat at home (even as a snack). And have medicine for every. possible. case. of stomach problems you can have (I don’t need to elaborate–right?)
The course schedule in this program is very different from other abroad programs. In the Quito/Galápagos program, we take 5 modules of classes. This means we only take one class at a time and each class runs for three weeks. My first module takes place in Quito, and the last four take place in the Galápagos. I'm studying through Universidad San Francisco de Quito, one of the best liberal arts colleges in Ecuador. The Quito campus is beautiful!
My main track that I am taking is the “People, Politics, and The Environment,” where I am taking these three classes: Wildlife Conservation Management, Global Climate Change (Economics, Science, and Society), and Island Socio-Ecosystems. I am taking two classes in the Marine Science module: Marine Ecology, and Marine Ecosystem-Based Management.
What I have learned from being here so far: this program is perfect for people who love, live, and breathe nature and the environment. During my first module, we have 15 days of class. 9 of the days are spent in field trips learning about different ecosystems. You don't have to know everything about biology, but having a fundamental interest in Planet Earth is a necessity (the planet, not the show although the show is also great). In fact, I'm an economics major and have never taken a biology class, but I don't feel out of place at all because I contribute something different to our collaborative learning environment.
When typical conversations with abroad friends consist of discussing ethical reasons of being vegetarian, how to restore oyster habitats, and mountain top removal–I truly find myself inspired about something new every day. Of course, it’s also fun to take classes with people who love the outdoors–most of us have our PADI SCUBA certifications and enjoy extreme outdoor sports.
So I found my new “normal”. I found it in my host family, my new friends, my inspiring classes, and the amazing food. Even though no two days look the same (I’m traveling 50% of the time), I am so grateful to have found comfort and consistency here.
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<p><span style="color: rgb(85, 85, 85); font-family: 'Lucida Grande', 'Lucida Sans Unicode', 'Lucida Sans', Verdana, Tahoma, sans-serif; font-size: 12px; line-height: 18px;">Senior at the University of Rochester studying economics, sustainability, and art. Pursuing a career in the corporate world but not-so-secretly a nature obsessed forest kid from Oregon and New Mexico.</span></p>