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Feels Like Home

By Isabel

I remember getting on the flight from Houston to Quito, sitting between a stranger and a window, taking off, and for the first time feeling like this was actually happening.

I think Covid ruined my ability to be excited without fear of whatever I was excited about being canceled or postponed. That’s actually why I’m here. The oldest of the group at 22, I chose to take my gap year after undergrad, looking to replace the study abroad I had canceled back in 2020. I can tell you right now, no study abroad program could ever give you an immersive experience like AMIGOS can.

From the beginning, I was the most excited about living with a host family. I really can’t think of a better way to fully immerse yourself in another culture, than combining your life with a local family. We do all the small things together like meals or relaxation time, as well as the big things such as holidays and day trips. I can see the small daily details that make a day in the life in Ecuador different than mine, something I would have never been able to experience if I lived in an apartment alone, or with other roommates from the US or abroad.

I think similar to other students, I was pretty ignorant of how life worked here. I had absolutely no expectations. But, maybe I did? When I left, I told my friends back home I probably wouldn’t have wifi, expecting there to only be the occasional coffee shop with wifi you have to ask for. Spoiler alert, everybody, and every place has wifi. I would say it’s probably easier to find public wifi here than it is at home. On my first night, I didn’t even have to think about how to say “do you have wifi” in Spanish before my host mom offered the password to me.

The first night with my host family was something I had spent the whole summer imagining. Back to my ignorant assumptions, I pictured taking a bus or taxi up a dirt road into the mountains and walking into a rural dimly lit house full of people and pets. Contrary to what I expected, we took my mom’s car, through a beautiful city full of life and people, up a mountain, however, paved with street lights, stores, and restaurants, to a beautiful gated apartment community.

Boy, did I feel dumb. I was given a house tour, and showed to my own room, painted the same lavender color as my bedroom at home. It felt like a good sign. I was also shown my bathroom. My OWN bathroom. I never even had my own bathroom before in the US. After getting settled and having my first hot shower since we arrived, I was welcomed back downstairs with a turkey and cheese panini, exactly what I had been craving since I got here, and the best tea I’ve ever had, I think it’s called Horchata. Me and Patricia, my host mom, talked about her family. I showed pictures of me and my brother, sister, parents, and grandparents, and she showed me pictures of her beautiful family, two daughters and a son, just like my family, and her 5 grandchildren, who I would soon come to love like my own nieces and nephews. I was immediately comfortable. I feel so lucky to have been welcomed with such acceptance and love from the beginning.

I never had low expectations, but I was still blown away by how people from so far away, who speak different languages and have lived such different lives, can still feel so much like home.

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