Everyone is telling you: “Go abroad! It’ll be the best experience of your life!” Well, thus far, after having spent six weeks here in Quito, Ecuador, I’d have to agree with that exclamation. Yes, airfare can be expensive, you might miss your significant other, and going through an entire semester without a job might put you in the red. However, dear fellow students, I am here to tell you that it is worth it.
Traveling abroad, jumping way outside of your comfort zone, is a great way to seriously enhance your college experience.
Let me dedicate this first column to my weekend TECHO excursion. TECHO is an organization coordinated by and made up of people ranging in age from 18 to 30. Participants pay $25 and volunteer three days of their time to travel to impoverished areas of the country and construct homes for poor families.
I really didn’t know what I was getting myself into. The TECHO trip was not part of the BCA agenda; an Ecuadorian acquaintance suggested my friends and I check it out. There were five other students involved in that were also volunteering that weekend. I assumed we would all be together, but I was wrong. We were all thrown into different groups and shipped off in different buses.
When I stepped off the bus five hours later at 3:00 a.m., the air was so cold that I thought my nose was going to fall off. 50 of us piled into the bed of a truck that took us to the school where we would sleep. I cannot describe in words the terrible cold of that school’s cement floor.
I spent Friday, Saturday and Sunday surrounded by people that only spoke fast, super slangy Spanish. To make matters worse, a lot of the participants came from other providences of Ecuador, speaking with completely different accents than the people of Quito. With this severe language barrier and my construction experience being zero, I had no idea what was going on in those three days. All I could do was watch and mimic the others. I felt incredibly incompetent.
I did not shower or even take off my shoes during the entire weekend; there was no shower and it was too cold to spend a second without shoes on my feet. I was overjoyed to get back to Quito late Sunday. Despite my sore muscles and the layer of dirt that covered my entire body, I felt good.
All my pains have since passed, but my service to that family will be used for years and years to come. And the rewarding, quite different experience will be a part of me forever. An indigenous family was enjoying a new home that I had helped create. I bonded with people from all over Ecuador. I relished a night sky more breathtaking than any other I’ve ever beheld. And never have I ever enjoyed a shower or appreciated my bed as much as I did that Sunday night.