Some Do’s and Don’t’s for Future Fellows

Regina Markert - Ecuador


June 6, 2018

Dear Class of 2019,

Boy, are you in for it. You don't even know. This year is going to be wild–be prepared for your host country to surprise, excite, anger, shock, and change you. But before you go on this journey, here’s a little list of do’s and don’t’s that I wish someone had told me before I left.

DO’S:

  • Remember why you’re doing this while you’re doing it. Make a sticky note, write it in your journal, tape it on your wall. Just have a visible reminder to yourself.

  • Keep a journal. I thought that I would have time to catch up once I was in the US, but while that is true, I find that a lot of my memories did not fly home with me from Ecuador. Even if you just do bullet notes at the end of your day, record it.

  • Bring a few good books (or ereader!). Inter-fellow book exchanges are wonderful.

  • Try and keep your room clean. Your host mom should not have to feel like it’s her responsibility to make your bed and pick up your dirty socks. You may love each other, but you’re still an invited guest in their home.

  • Bring some snacks for home. Let me tell you, my stash of goldfish just about saved my life in November when a bout of homesickness almost drowned me.

  • Bring bug spray. This one speaks for itself.

DON’T’S

  • Forget your emergency phone, especially if you're not going to use data while in country! My ecuaphone quite literally saved my life.

  • Get dehydrated. You’ll regret it. (plus always having a water bottle around means you can drink some water during a conversation to buy time to think about how to answer!!! life hack ur welcome)

  • Get freaked out by huge bugs. Think of it as character building!

  • Be guilty to take some alone time. You might need a break from your host family, and that’s okay. They might love you as much as they love their own children, but that doesn’t mean that maybe they won’t need a break from you once and a while too. Like being a foreign exchange student, to be a host family is stressful and nerve wracking and you sacrifice a lot of privacy.

  • Get caught up on first impressions. Both your impressions of your surroundings/family will change, just like theirs will of you too. When I first met my host sister Fernanda, we did not click at all. It took until about December for things to feel okay. But we pushed through it and now I have a friend for life.

  • Be afraid to make mistakes. Literally up until my last day I was making mistakes, but the difference between my last day and my first is that I was no longer embarrassed by my mistakes. I could laugh at them. Mistakes mean you’re trying and growing, and that’s a beautiful thing that not everyone can or even wants to do. Embrace it.

Phew, that was a lot. I’m sure I’m missing a few vital tips, but the main ones are all there. If you take one thing out of this, let it be this: you’re going to be okay. This program is here to support you, your fellows are here to empathize with you, and your family is here to love on you. But no matter what, you’re going to come back a wiser, fuller, smarter, and more experienced person. You are loved and you’ll be okay.

Don’t be afraid to reach out to alumni! Seriously, we love throwing around advice. It would make our day to hear about you trying a local food for the first time or catching the bus on your own.

Thank you for reading. Feel free to leave a comment if this helped!

Much love,

Reina

Ecuador ‘18


Regina Markert