Welcome back! Since studying abroad was such a foreign (pun intended) concept to me before traveling to Ecuador, it's not at all surprising I have learned enough helpful hints that I needed to write not one, but two blog posts examining them. I clearly have a lot to say, and I like to think that what has been useful for me will prove useful to you as well, so without further ado...enjoy Part 2!
19. It's best to just not have a plan or expectations about certain trips in Ecuador. In my experience, Ecuadorians aren't concerned about getting somewhere on time. Two of the most common words spoken in my host family are paciencia, or "patience," and tranquila, which means "calm down" or "relax." Usually people say them when it's clear we are going to be late to an event. Truth be told, my patience has soared during my semester abroad so far and my stress level has plummeted. I think I owe this newfound liberation to my overall ability to adjust my thinking to this more relaxed way of life. Late to a meeting? Paciencia. It took three hours longer than expected to begin riding horses? Tranquila. We have all the time in the world to accomplish our goals, so simply enjoy the wonky ride. When you stop worrying about the time, you start loving the journey.
20. Families must have Wi-Fi in their houses to be considered as potential host families for IES Abroad students. When I mentioned to my host brother that I hadn't known before arriving in Quito if I would have access to Wi-Fi in my house, he burst out laughing as if it was the funniest thing in the world. Note to self: I was so naive never having traveled outside of North America before my semester abroad.
21. Trucks selling gas cans play the same song of children singing throughout the entire day. Don't be alarmed, but it does get annoying after the first dozen times.
22. Fun fact: assumptions exist everywhere. If you're tall like me, people will ask if EVERYBODY in the US is tall. Whether you decide to be funny (say yes, the U.S. is the land of giants) or truthful (explain that you're still a giant back home) is up to you.
23. Warning: Do NOT call the U.S. America. Since South America is part of the Americas, this is very offensive.
24. Your host family could know a lot more English than you anticipated or none at all. Since you're here to improve your Spanish, however, I highly recommend only speaking Spanish with the fam.
25. On a similar note, it is incredibly easy to speak English with your friends from IES Abroad while abroad. The problem is that only makes it harder to keep yourself mentally prepared for speaking Spanish with your family, during classes, and with the locals.
26. Although you can pay with a credit card at the mall and in some restaurants, most places only accept cash. It's best to carry around $5 and $10 bills because $20s can be a little hard to break.
27. Only drink bottled water! Although Quito has incredibly clean water at its source, the pipe system is so old that the water picks up lots of bacteria on its way into the city. When in doubt, steer clear of drinking tap water, unless you boil it to get rid of the contaminants. And always make sure to ask in restaurants whether the water is filtered or not.
28. Fun fact: Ecuador uses the U.S. dollar, so no need having to stress about exchange rates. Your money will go a lot further in Ecuador, too. Many times, a two- or three-course lunch only costs $3-5.
29. The dollar coin comes in handy! U.S. dollar coins are super common in Ecuador, so keep some on hand at all times. On my way back from Mindo, I discovered I had $12 in coins when I thought I had used all my money!
30. Quito is HUGE. The city is squat, but incredibly long to the point that if you're standing at the top of Teleférico (the cable car that takes you close to the summit of Pichincha), you might not even be able to see the entire city.
31. Studying abroad is a blast, but don't forget you've got classes. It can be a little difficult at times to motivate yourself to do homework when you're surrounded by so many beautiful and exciting things to do, but your grades do count, so remember that school is very important too!
I hope these hints have helped ease some of your concerns about studying abroad and enticed you to live in Ecuador! Truthfully, I was very nervous about living in a foreign country, but I discovered very quickly that Ecuador is an incredible place for me to be because the people are kind, the scenery is gorgeous and my host family is more welcoming than I could have imagined. Whether you study abroad in Ecuador or in another country, enjoy each and every experience because the purpose of life is to learn, grow, and be inspired (by yourself and others).