Reflecting on the past four or so weeks, there’s no denying that they have been some of the longest weeks of my life. That early morning that I waved goodbye to my parents as I walked through airport security feels like worlds away. Since then, so many things have changed. My friends from home are all off at their different colleges now, and here I am, sitting in my house in Quito. In between then and now, I have been to Chicago, San Francisco, Oakland, Marin, Laytonville, Palo Alto, Miami, and all over the capital city of Ecuador. I have made countless goodbyes and hellos. I have met hundreds of new people, many of whom will continue to be a part of my life for months and years to come. I have gotten a slight idea of what it might be like to be a student at Stanford University, as I learned about Global Diversity, Mindfulness, International Development, the Girl Effect, Public Speaking, and Storytelling. I took a field trip to the Facebook headquarters, learned about Social Enterprises, became a part of the One World Futbol Project, and listened to Craig Newmark of Craigslist speak. I met some of the most interesting, intelligent, adventurous, eager young adults I have ever come across. And I turned eighteen surrounded by those people.
We tried to fathom the fact that we were about to spend a year in Ecuador, Brazil, and Senegal. Stanford spoiled us with unlimited soft serve ice cream, fountain hopping opportunities, late nights, and togetherness. The ten days came and went, and before I knew it, it was 3:15am on August 29th and our bus was about to leave for San Francisco International Airport and I couldn’t stop the tears from coming as I hugged tightly my Senegalese and Brazilian fellow Fellows as we exchanged “good luck” and “see you in April.” Sixteen hours later, the 49 of us were in line at Quito customs. The ability that airplanes have to take us through time and continents within a matter of hours is overwhelming. The reality of being in Ecuador took some days to settle in as we were set out to navigate the city on our own and eventually meet our Quito host families.
Being a part of a family that is not your own and feeling comfortable takes time and effort from all sides. My family here in Quito is making it so easy to feel welcome and loved. It makes me question the definition of “home” and I know I will continue to as this year goes on.
This city is incredible, it reminds me of a mix of Panama City and San Francisco, and the mountains that surround it are gorgeous. There are parts of Quito however that I’m looking forward to get a break from as move into the rural town in the cloud forest region of Ecuador that I will be spending the rest of my Global Citizen Year in. It will be a big change of pace, as I start my full time apprenticeships in the sectors of youth development, ecotourism, and helping out in a chocolate factory. My community is called Puerto Rico, in Northwest Pichincha. It’s small enough that it doesn’t show up in Google Maps, small enough to make me nervous, anxious, and excited. I meet my new host family on Saturday when I will spend a week with them before we settle in for good the first week of October.
As each day passes, new challenges present themselves, and I question myself and my motions, I realize that there’s no place else I could imagine myself right now. I am exactly where I’m supposed to be.