#1- Get comfortable talking about your bowel movements. Even the shiest Fellows in my cohort broke by week four, discussing their gastrointestinal issues at length. The worst part of all of this isn’t even that you’re hearing about other people’s poop. The worst part is that you’re genuinely interested in hearing about other people’s poop.
#2- Use Global Launch to meet as many Fellows as possible. Try sitting with a different group for every meal and moving around during free time. You will be each other’s lifelines for the next 8 months, even if you’re not in the same country.
#3- Journal. You’re probably going to be gifted approximately 10,000 blank journals as you prepare to head off on your gap year, and you might not have any intention of using them. But, coming from someone who’d never kept a diary for more than a week or two before GCY, journaling is everything while in-country. There’s so much you’ll think about or need to figure out, and while your normal outlets may not be available, you can always write about it. For the past 7 months, my journal has been my best friend, my therapist, and an insurance that I won’t forget all that I’m learning.
#4- Accept every invitation from your host family, for the first few weeks. Spending time sunbathing with my mamá, jumping rope with my little sister, and watching movies with my brothers is a huge reason for why I became so close with my host family so quickly.
#5- Ecuador Fellows especially- There are several things you should always have in your bag: an umbrella, $5 for emergencies, a spare pair of socks, and a roll of toilet paper (when you know you know).
#6- Another EcuaTip- Don’t get attached to the guinea pigs.
#7- There are a ton of cliches you’ll hear GCY staff and alum repeat over and over until eventually you involuntarily roll your eyes when you hear them, but don’t dismiss them. The days ARE long and the years ARE short. You SHOULD practice curiosity before judgement. And, possibly most importantly, you should NEVER trust a fart, ESPECIALLY on public transportation.