Arriving to a State of Emergency

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Nicollee Hammer
January 22, 2024

Student safety is our top priority. With a global 24/7 Crisis Management Team, we monitor situations like recent unrest in Ecuador and activate protocols as needed. Since President Daniel Noboa declared a 60-day national state of emergency on January 8th, we've stayed vigilant, communicating with students, parents, and schools, providing safety tips, and liaising with local authorities and the U.S. Embassy. If conditions remain safe, our programs in Ecuador and the Galápagos Islands will continue, with contingency plans in place for any safety concerns.

Once our plane landed in Quito, I could feel my anxiety lessen and my excitement building to see my new family waiting for me! Thankfully my arrival was very quick, and the airport was easy to navigate. I found my host mom Rita and we made our way to the car to see my new sister Emilia waiting for me! We rode back to the house while getting to know a little bit about each other, and then I was abruptly greeted by the three pups once I got out of the car. I was so excited to have 3 new dogs as I already miss mine so much:(

My new mom and sister gave me a quick tour of the house and let me settle into my room and then we headed to a friend’s house since I was not the least bit tired and full of adrenaline and excitement. We arrived at the friend’s place where I got to meet my host dad and his best friend since childhood! I already felt like a part of the family and everyone that I met was so welcoming. 

I arrived on a Friday so the next morning I got to sleep in a bit and relax after my long day of traveling. I awoke to my host mom having made me a delicious breakfast of fresh squeezed orange juice, tea, a tortilla which reminded me of an omelet, and fresh fruit! My host parents had a few errands to run the first day, so Emilia and I headed to the mall to get a few things that I didn’t want to bring in my suitcase like shampoo, conditioner, etc. We even brought the littlest dog Rocket! My host sister and I were already getting along so well, we have so many interests in common and even some of our favorite tv shows and movies. Later that night she took me out to downtown Cumbaya to meet some of her friends and show me around the popular restaurants and places younger people like to hangout. 

The next day I had my IES orientation and was finally going to put the faces to names that I had seen on our previous zoom calls. After safety speeches and getting to know you games, we got shuttled to a gorgeous restaurant for lunch where our tables had an amazing 180 view of the city of Quito and The Virgen de El Panecillo. We were served a soup, a delicious dish of shrimp, tilapia, and rice, and Ecuadorian ice cream. Once we had all finished eating, we were served a traditional Ecuadorian drink and one of the IES program directors made a toast to the great semester we were about to have. After the rest of orientation, we headed back to our host families and got ready for our first day of classes the next morning. 

At our USFQ orientation, all of us IES students got to meet the other students in our classes. We split up and had a tour of the campus that is even connected to a mall and is surrounded by tons of delicious local restaurants. That afternoon was our first Spanish class which we all truly needed to brush up on basic skills so that we could communicate with our host families and the locals. 

Out of the blue on our second day my Spanish teacher announced that the country was in a state of emergency and the university was sending everyone home for the day and we all needed to tell our host families to come get us. Immediately, all of us were so worried and shocked because it was only our second day and the President had completely shut own all schools throughout the whole country. We later found out that a major gang leader had broken out of prison in Guayaquil and members of his gang had taken hostage a news station and the reporters, causing the president to declare of state of emergency and war against these dangerous drug gangs. My host family kept telling me not to worry as I didn’t exactly understand what this meant for the next few weeks to come...

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Nicollee Hammer

I'm from Ohio but I've traveled since I was little so I've got to see many different countries and experience different perspectives and ways of life. I enjoy meeting new people and trying new things. I can't wait to see what Ecuador has to offer!

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Auburn University
Biological Sciences
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