Spanish in Quito
How did you live your study?
I lived with a host family during my stay in Quito. While living with a tight-knit family for a semester is likely very different from other students' abroad experiences, I wouldn't have done it any other way.
I spent hours talking with my host mom in the evening, grilled her on the ingredients of the classic Ecuadorian dishes between telenovela commercials, interviewed her about traditional home remedies, accompanied her to outdoor flower markets, and took the time to get to know her extended family. She hardly spoke English, and I was committed to getting to know her and Ecuador, and attaining Spanish fluency—so it was a great match.
Early on, I made a conscious decision to say "Yes" to more things, and I held myself to it. Ultimately, I tested the boundaries of my comfort zones, keeping the uniqueness of my opportunities in perspective—and I had an incredibly fulfilling, challenging, exciting abroad experience.
What was your most profound turning point abroad?
The turning point that comes to mind first occurred early on in the semester when a friend and I decided to take our first weekend excursion to the Ecuadorian coast to meet some other friends. It was the first time I had traveled in what would be my home country for the next four months, with a friend I had just met, and navigated a still-foreign landscape without my host mother.
We nervously purchased our tickets, nearly missed our bus, and finally boarded for our eight-hour ride. Having been warned about theft on buses, we kept a close watch on our packs, a task made easy by the fact that we could hardly sleep. It was loud—the salsa and reggaeton blared into the early morning—and it was hot, as Andean drivers typically kept the bus's windows sealed even as we descended out of the cold mountains into the steamy coastal region.
Finally, sun crested over the horizon, and the sea came into view. We had arrived at our destination.
More importantly, however, we had begun to feel comfortable with being uncomfortable: have a sense of humor when everything seemed to be going wrong, observe differences from our own experiences in the U.S. without passing judgment, and soak in the newness (new sights, sounds, smells, accents, and ways of traveling) of our semester abroad.