It’s been a month since I left Ecuador, and my transition back to this coastal Maine town has been remarkably easy. The semester abroad was the farthest physical and cultural step I’ve taken away from home, and so it was a very reflective time, four months to look at everything I’ve ever known from a far-away perspective. Now home with that fresh perspective, I look at my friends and family with a new appreciation for everything I’ve always loved about them. Rather than resenting them for not understanding the world I’ve been living in for four months and how it’s changed me, I’ve found it delightful to realize just how lucky I am to be able to come back to these people.
Looking back on Quito and the Galapagos, I have no doubts that I chose the right program. The opportunity to live in a small community on a highly protected, biologically significant, and remote volcanic island was an incredibly unique experience, and a month in Quito meant that we experienced life in a foreign city, too. For an aspiring biologist, Ecuador is an ideal country to visit due to its tremendous and concentrated levels of biodiversity. The number of different ecosystems we saw in a month was huge and wonderful, from the high Andes to the Amazon rainforest.
Three months in a tiny town on an island in the middle of the Pacific also allowed the formation of a special kind of bond within our group of students. The extraordinariness of it was affirmed on our very last night in Ecuador, on the highest floor of a hotel in Quito. A shuttle bus was coming at 3:30am to bring the first of us to the airport, so we stayed up all night together, packed into the largest room. For hours we took turns saying things we loved about other friends in the circle, going around and around with compliments and memories and stories. When it came time to say goodbye, we filed downstairs and fell into a hundred hugs, twenty sobbing gringos in a hotel lobby. I was staying for an extra week, so I stayed behind while ten of them climbed onto the bus and the rest of us waved from the sidewalk. For a group of very different young people, we’d been so remarkably inclusive and genuinely kind to each other. Those early morning hours held one of the most amazing acts of caring and love I’ve ever been a part of, and they made me all the more grateful for the unique experience that allowed those bonds to form.
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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);">Grace is a junior at Connecticut College with a major in botany. She grew up on the coast of Maine and looks forward to leaving its harsh winter for the equatorial Galapagos Islands. Grace’s interests include paleontology, backpacking, folk music, and fermented foods. Join her as she heads to Ecuador for the semester!</span></p>