I was lucky enough to be placed with a fantastic host family, and have the opportunity to volunteer as a soccer coach with a very dedicated team of women. I was very fortunate - more fortunate than many of my friends, several of whom were on the coast of Ecuador during the earthquake of April, 2016 - in that I never had any major negative experiences. Additionally, I was one of the very few who did not get pick-pocketed, or catcalled (I was one of the few men in the program - about 20/25 were women). Their experiences made me think about race and gender (and natural disasters) in a way I really hadn’t before. For myself, I found Quito very easy to navigate, had an overall great experience interacting with Ecuadorians, and would 10/10 recommend the program!
I’m sure you’ve thought, “If only I weren’t so busy, I’d [insert activity]!” That activity might be a personal project, travel, or just taking some time to relax and read a good book. My study abroad in Quito, Ecuador, certainly kept me busy. But after a few weeks, I realized just how much stuff I had worked into my university life back in the US, from clubs, to classes, to my social ‘responsibilities’. In Ecuador, I got the rare opportunity to step out of my normal routine, to pick and choose the activities about which I felt passionate enough to keep, and discard those which, I realized, weighed me down. Through this process, I created time to pursue activities such as those from the first sentence, activities which we’ve all thought about, but not necessarily followed through on.
The quintessential components of my study abroad experience - traveling around a new country and speaking a new language; living with a new family; and taking classes introducing a new perspective - were all engaging and thought-provoking. Many of my fellow reviewers have commented that one or all of these were instrumental in re-shaping their world view. But one of the most understated aspects of study abroad is the student’s ability to fashion new habits and re-prioritize responsibilities to more-accurately reflect passion and commitment. Developing both a fresh outlook and fresh habits during time in Quito made me feel as though I truly did get the most out of my study abroad experience.