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Like an idiot, I came to Ecuador carrying expectations.

Last August I looked ahead and saw “cool traveler adventurer Audrey,” the girl that could solve any problem. The girl that could speak fluent Spanish, change the world with her art, maybe even has a cool haircut. Independent, strong, and a citizen of the world: I saw myself as I thought that I should be, every secret aspiration candy-coated with stereotypes.

And now, over halfway through my gap year, I am dealing with the consequences of that. Because I am not that girl. I am still scared and stressed and homesick sometimes, I still occasionally get lost, and I still worry about what I am doing here. Most of all, I still don’t really like eating guinea pig.

But while I am not the girl that I thought that I should be, I am also not the girl that I was.

Coming from such a small town, my reputation preceded me. I had been Audrey the valedictorian, Audrey the girl with the funky car, Audrey the loud artist, Audrey the big fish in a small pond, Audrey the ambitious. Identity upon rumor, I was known for many things, and other people’s expectations were heaped upon me.

And now, sitting here in Ecuador, I am neither who I expected to become, or who people in my past thought that I was.

I have settled into just Audrey.

Coming to a place where nobody knew (or could pronounce) my name gave me the chance to forget about who other people thought that I was. I am imperfect, independent, creative. I have not gotten rid of my imperfections or reputations, I have been forced to embrace them. Instead of becoming what anyone expected, I have just become me, settled into my body and my personality in a way that I have not been before. I am still going to come home a different person, but I will come home more as myself than anyone else.

I will be that independent, strong citizen of the world, but in my own way. And I could not be happier.

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