It’s been about a week since I left Ecuador, and I’ve had some time to reflect on these past 8 weeks. As I read the advice given above, I definitely agreed with a lot of it. Gavin, Victoria, Sam, and Rachel mention the need to communicate early on and to speak up if your workload is not enough or if it’s too much. Some of my advice is to sit down with the coordinator or supervisor at your placement, and talk to them about your expectations and goals, as well as theirs. If things don’t match up to what you wanted or expected, then take initiative and seek out opportunities within your placement or pitch your own ideas. Also, I want to emphasize on Denise’s advice: a flexible mindset is crucial. I don’t think I would of reacted well to the unexpected situations without having an open and flexible mind.
Like Julianna, I definitely gained a lot of perspective on Ecuador (and South America) and applied much of what I learned in PJHC, ANTH, and SWGS courses. I learned so much from this experience – about myself and the Ecuadorian community – that I would definitely do this experience all over again. The one thing I would do differently would be to communicate my expectations and requirements as I applied to the program.
In a sense, many of my assumptions were confirmed. I expected Ecuador to be similar to Mexico, but I did not expect to witness the female empowerment movement as clearly as I did – or the LGBT movement. I did not expect to explicitly witness the wealth gap in the community. I was reminded that every country can definitely be different from one another, but that doesn’t mean that they do not endure the same problems – even comparing a developing country to a “first-world country.” This experience definitely allowed me to first-handedly witness some of the issues we discussed in the intro courses.
One of my favorite aspects of this experience was bonding with the locals and creating authentic relationships – especially through the homestay aspect. This helped me be more compassionate, informed, and involved. I believe that the best way to serve a community is to be a part of it.