I chose El Nomad because I knew it would offer me the most authentic, immersive experience in a Spanish-speaking country that I had my eyes on. The El Nomad staff is small, but they have close relationships with every family, many nonprofits, businesses and schools, making the experience entirely local.
Why did you pick this program?
What is the most important thing you learned abroad?
Out of all of the things I learned while abroad, I think the most important thing for me was how to be alone. I was the only student studying abroad for five months through El Nomad and found myself alone multiple days and nights. I went exploring by myself, took walks by myself, went to yoga class by myself, or sat and talked with my host mom for hours over hot chocolate and bread.
Even when I did have people to explore or go out with, I learned that being alone is not always bad - it's how you keep yourself sane while being alone that's the hardest part.
What made this experience unique and special?
I loved El Nomad's program because of the independence it gave me. I wasn't tied to a group or a particular schedule. I truly LIVED in a new country by myself, volunteering, meeting new friends, going to yoga classes and making friends with Ecuadorians.
Since I didn't have a program with other students, I kept close to Cuenca, the third largest city in the country, visiting small towns and understanding the many different cultures within just one state of Ecuador. El Nomad helped me choose where to travel and in some cases even planned some excursions for me.
Tell us about an experience you had that you could not have had at home.
Carnaval in Ecuador was by far one of the most fun experiences I had while abroad. I stayed at home with my host family and almost the entire extended family came over for the first day of the festival. We ate, played card games, and threw water on each other. Not only was this an experience I could not have had at home, but it was the experience that made me finally feel welcome.
What was the hardest part about transitioning back to life in the U.S.?
I spent so much time immersed in Ecuador without English. So when I started hearing English all the time again, I felt out of place. I kept wanting to respond in Spanish since I forgot how to say certain phrases in English. I found myself looking for excuses to speak or read Spanish.
It's still hard after a month or so of being back. I miss the simplicity of life, the lack of stress and speaking Spanish 12 hours a day.