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Hello all and welcome to my blog! Today marks the 18th day since I left home. 18 days of growth, happiness, sadness, laughter, amazing food, terrible food, new things, new people, and a whirlwind of emotions and experiences I find difficult to put into words. 18 days ago I arrived at Pre-Departure Training in the California Redwoods surrounded by 110 of the most incredible people I had ever met. Coming from various countries, backgrounds and circumstances, these people embodied the qualities I most sought out for myself, including intelligence, open-mindedness, kindness and the ability and devotion to speak their minds. I am confident I learned as much from them (and continue to) as the speakers and seminars intended to teach us. Throughout the week we grew close as a global cohort and learned valuable skills that I know I will carry with me long after my bridge year is over. 7 days later, I left 65 of these people and the beautiful Stanford campus, with a heavy heart but amazing friends, excited and anxious for what lay ahead.

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Quito has been a learning experience thus far. For the last 10 days I have been battling the language barrier, homesickness, physical sickness, my first earthquake, the craziness that is public transportation, my inability to breathe when climbing stairs, and my necessary but hard to swallow dependence on the people around me. Each day brings with it new challenges, but also new successes, and definitely new stories. On the same day I successfully take the bus alone, I also say good morning to my cashier at 7pm. I’m learning to laugh at myself almost as much as the Ecuadorians around me do when they watch our group of gringos cross the crazy traffic that is ever present in Quito. Each day I’m amazed and grateful to be here, and cannot even begin to imagine what tomorrow (and the next 7 months) will bring. 18 days down; here’s to the next 220. ¡Hasta luego!