Pacific has been a home-away-from-home for me; maybe it’ll become that for you over your freshman year here. But I won’t be here – or home – this year. Instead, I’ll be studying abroad in Ecuador. I have a few goals for while I’m abroad: to learn, to enjoy my stay and to return fluent in Spanish. Maybe you won’t have goals. Some of you may plan on studying abroad yourselves later on, probably for your degree. Maybe you’ll be crazy enough to go for a full year like me, or just a semester. If you want to follow in the footsteps of so many before us, here are some tips I have picked up:
I’ll try not to repeat the advice you will get when you apply. But some of the themes I’ve noticed are to pack light, pack according to your country, and keep an open mind. In fact, this is the notion that keeps getting hammered into my head (aside from “don’t die”); that I should keep an open mind while I’m down there, because as much as I prepare for it, there’s no way to know what Ecuador will be like until I actually go there.
Do you have friends, family or classmates who have been abroad? Chat them up! Especially if they have been to the country you plan on going to. Maybe they’ll have some good places to go, social advice for your stay or ways to cope with being homesick. Even if they can’t give any advice they may be able to tell you a cool story of their time abroad.
But what if you don’t know anyone who has been abroad, let alone to the country you want to go to? Well, read up on it! A friend of my parents recommended that I go to eBay or somewhere cheap and find the thickest book on the history of my host country, Ecuador. Wikipedia has worked wonders in that regard as well; at worst it is a good jumping-off point to find other sources as well.
Get involved with your host family! It’s a good way of getting a sense of the culture you’ve been plopped down into. Sure, you’ll make friends while you’re there, and maybe some of your Pacific buddies will be going with you, but make sure to get to know your host family well. No one I’ve talked to has wished they spent less time with their host family.