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Written 29 de agosto
Most college students are acquainted with the musician Ben Folds; even if they don’t know him, they probably recognize his song entitled “The Luckiest.” True, the song is a romantic expression of love, is perhaps overused, and may not seem to have much to do with my experience abroad. However, tonight the chorus struck a chord (haha, chord. I didn’t even mean to make that joke.) with my journey in Ecuador. I am the luckiest.
This week marked the beginning of my studies at Universidad San Francisco de Quito. It was somewhat disorienting to arrive on campus and encounter hundreds of other students–I had become accustomed to the pre-semester courses throughout the month of August with only our small BCA group in attendance.
I quickly learned that it is an exhausting thing to listen and speak in español for an entire day. By the time that I arrive home from classes I am incredibly worn out. Thus, I have taken two super-siestas (one was almost five hours long) to compensate. Fortunately, I can already feel my Spanish improving and, in addition, our BCA group has intentionally started speaking in Spanish to each other. It is easy to speak English with all the extranjeros and gringos, but for many of us, increasing our fluency in Spanish is a goal for our stay in Ecuador and we’re working hard to see it come to fruition.
Only having attended classes for three days, I can’t say that I am “best friends” with any Ecuadorian students yet, but I hope to establish more and more friendships in the future (unfortunately, Spanish language courses are full of gringos y gringas). Before attending classes I was warned that students at USFQ might be “stuck up” because the majority comes from the highest socioeconomic class in Ecuador. I try to avoid this stereotype, and, in return, I’ve been met with kindness in several different situations.
There’s Juan from my Andinismo class, who plays the guitar and might be able to teach me some more chords in the future. And there are so many women from my fútbol mujeres class that are kind, willing to help and easy-going. Of course, I’ve also met fellow gringos and gringas who are genuinely earnest and share many of the same passions that I do.
I still need time to adjust to my new schedule and I still need to continue to actively seek–with my broken Spanish phrases–friendships with Ecuadorians. I’m sure there will be times when homework is overwhelming, when I’ll be frustrated by my inability to communicate or when my interactions with Ecuadorian students will not go so easily.
In spite of this, as I listened to Ben Folds this evening…or morning (it’s about 2:30 in the morning right now), I was overcome by the realization that I truly am lucky, privileged, and blessed to be here.
Tonight during a two-hour long charla (using very little English!) with some friends de BCA to celebrate a birthday in our group, we all shared in this sentiment. Drinking our cafe and eating a wonderful pastry, free because of our friend´s birthday, it dawned on us that we are in Ecuador.
We get the chance to use what we’ve learned in years of Spanish class everyday. We get to explore a country that is incredibly geographically and ethnically diverse. We live in a bustling city where we can attend enormous discotecas one night and relax in a modern cafe the next. In the background of our bus rides to the university we stare at mountains. We have families that genuinely care for us and bring depth to our understanding of this paíz. How many people in the world get the chance to learn about and live in a completely different context for five months and, in turn, learn more about themselves and their own culture? What a gift.
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