Family or Friends: Ecuadorian Style

Tabitha Ato
September 30, 2019

It has been over a month now in Ecuador, and it has become quite obvious the different social groups all international students fall into. At the university, you will meet other foreign students from various countries, immersion programs, and at different Spanish speaking skills. However, the goals you have for your study abroad experience will heavily influence your niche. Personally, making friends while studying abroad was something I was quite hesitant about from the beginning. Although I tried not to have any expectations, I knew that being a reserved and introverted person, it may be harder to find a group of native friends to socialize with, so I had to make a plan. Another factor that was initially discouraging was that most of the students at the university are used to new international students arriving every semester, so quite a few students are not willing to spend time with students that they know will leave in a few months. But there is always the exception…

In this blog post, like all the others, I will write to be sincere, true and honest to my experiences as a student that does not look like a typical gringa. As I reflect on the past seven or so weeks, it has been quite funny how much of my reserved and quiet self has become a chatterbox. I have spent so much time with my host family and their immediate family, which has been enriching because I have learned so much about Ecuadorian culture, food, dining etiquette and the importance of family and its dynamics.

Back to my plan on making friends, it was quite simple. It was to spend time with my host family. Being very close to my family back home, I wanted to replicate that with my study abroad experience, so I knew that it would be easy for me to take advantage of my host family. During the first few weeks, I accompanied my host family to family events, work meetings and reunions with friends just so I could meet people of different age groups and social aspects of Quito. My host mother was a bit worried that I was not making friends with any of the students at the university (I actually was/am) and participating in “young people activities” as she would always say. Talking with other IES Abroad students, it is quite surprising how much of the familial and social culture is not shared with international students because they do not intentionally try to learn more about their families and their personal traditions. Personally, the family part of host family is really important to me, which is why I have decided to build a relationship with my host family, and not just considering the fact that they provide me with food and shelter.

I am lucky that from the beginning I decided to become friends with my host parents. I have been able to visit so many parts of Ecuador that students may not consider or ever hear about because it is not a main tourist attraction. This is not to say I completely avoid the young natives, I, in fact, have met a couple of amazing people but since I live outside of Quito it becomes difficult having to commute 40 minutes to an hour at night just to meet up with friends. Personally, it is convenient for me because I have the chance to spend time with my awesome family without feeling disadvantaged that I live outside of the city.