Getting Used to Ecuador - My Family Travels

                This spring I had one of the best experiences of my life thus far. Through my foreign language program at school and the organization Youth for Understanding (YFU), I was able to study abroad in Ecuador for 10 weeks. I was really excited about going because I knew it would be a great opportunity to be immersed in and learn another culture, and also to improve my Spanish skills. Little did I know that studying abroad would be an exercise in persevering in face of adversity.

                When I first arrived I did not have a big problem getting adjusted to my new family. I had a new mom, dad, 19 year old sister, and a 21 year old brother. My dad was the only one fluent in English. My sister spoke very little English, but my mom and brother spoke only Spanish. I was very elated to know that my dad spoke English because he could help make my transition much easier. But just my luck, my dad worked outside of the city so throughout the week he wasn’t home. At first that made me nervous but eventually it worked out in my favor. I was able to learn how to face that obstacle and make the best out of the situation. I ended up understanding the language much better once I started opening up and talking more.

Going to school was a slight challenge for me. It was very different from what I was used to, so it took me a while to adjust. The language barrier was the major impediment I faced. I didn’t have total command of the language, thus I couldn’t really enjoy all my classes. I studied Spanish in school for the past two and a half years but that was no comparison to actually being in a Spanish environment 24/7. But after awhile, my comprehension improved and I was able to do all the work I could and stay attentive in class.  Another challenge was the religious practices. Being in a Catholic school, we had to take a religion class and go to the chapel to pray once a week. I wasn’t too fond of that but I was respectful of the school and beliefs, so I did it with a smile.  However, I was glad I was able to be introduced to and experience the Catholic religion.  In addition, my classmates were very nice to me and I became good friends with some of them. In spite of being from different countries and being used to different things, we were still able to get along and relate to one another.

My overall experience in Ecuador was great and I would recommend studying abroad to all students. I gained a tremendous amount of knowledge and skills that I can use for the rest of my life. Not only did I learn how to get along with others who are different from me but also how to come out of my comfort zone and try new things.  If one is not willing to do that, then that could be a huge setback. Additionally, I learned that being from a different country does not mean that you won’t have anything in common with the people in a foreign country. Interacting with the other students at school I found that they were similar to my friends back home; the only big difference was the language barrier and some of their cultural practices! It is very important for students interested in studying abroad to know this so they would have more positive experiences amongst people of different backgrounds.



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