After being back home for a little more than week it almost feels as though I never left. I’ve spent a lot of time hanging out with my cats and made some plans with friends I haven’t seen in a while. Everything is more or less like I remember it. I’ve heard that integrating back into your home country can be hard, but personally I’m not feeling much of a culture shock. This is probably in part due the structure of this particular program. Nearly everyone was American and all our classes were in English, so it's not like I was completely disconnected from life back home. So far, I’ve spent most of my time around my house though so maybe when I head back to university things will be different.
Traveling abroad is sold as a life-changing experience, and it's not false to say it is, but as I see it every experience is life-changing. Even small things should change your life in some way, if you go to the grocery store your life should be at least a little bit different than it would have been otherwise. If you do something and it has no effect on your life did you do anything at all? Living abroad for four months is certainly not a trip to the store but don’t expect it to flip your world on its head either. Then again it might, my experience is just one out of forty in the same program.
The point is, don’t hype up living in a foreign country to be the catalyst for some life-altering paradigm shift. Rather it’s a unique and rather sizeable experience that acts as an ingredient mixing with other life events to shape your future. Don’t be disappointed if your life isn’t radically altered in some fundamental way; appreciate everything on its own merits and remember to use what you learned whether it be large or small.
I expect the real effects of my time in Ecuador won’t become apparent for months or even years from now. I certainly speak Spanish a lot better than I did last August. I’ve visited some amazing landscapes and seen wild animals that you can’t even see in a zoo. Over everything else I made a host of new friends from across the world, and the after all the most memorable part of any experience is who you share it with.
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<p>I grew up in Eatonville, a small town in Washington just outside the entrance to Mount Ranier National Park, but I moved to Seattle two years ago for college. There's a lot more to do in the city than back home; I've taken dance lessons, played clarinet in a campus band, and this summer I learned how to sail. Exposure to nature here is limited though. I used to go hike in the national park after work, but now I feel like I hardly leave the library! In the Galápagos I plan to spend plenty of time outside both on land and sea.</p>