Embracing Ecuador

It’s been one week since I landed in Quito – the capital city of Ecuador which is nestled 9,000 feet high in the Andes at the foothill of Pichincha Volcano. Since the moment I arrived, Quito felt like home; there is an air of familiarity here and I cannot seem to unravel why. It just feels as if I was always meant to be here.

Of course I came fully equipped with an open mind and alacrity to embrace everything and anything. You see for me, studying abroad was an opportunity that I never thought I would have.

For starters I am married and financially independent transfer student. The thought of having to pay rent, car payment, bills, etc. months out in advance for study abroad was rather daunting. But through the resources at SDSU, I began to seek out scholarships. I had a very unsuccessful attempt in 2014, but I learned and matured from that experience. This time around, I applied and was endorsed for scholarships from Gilman International, DUS Weber Honors College, and SDSU Associated Students. With this in mind, I was humbled and grateful to step off the plane in a new country in a different continent. Going into my program with such a positive mentality has truly made this past week magical. I literally cannot stop smiling!

Also, there is another reason I am so inspired. I was selected and placed in a 9-week internship in the Mayor’s Office for the City of Quito with concurrent enrollment at the Universidad San Francisco de Quito. Along with all the excitement, I also have a hefty amount of healthy stress – mostly in the form of developing my intermediate Spanish skills from intermediate to advanced. The benefit of studying and interning abroad in Quito is the demanding and immersive Spanish environment. Literally in one-week, I have taken my Spanish fluency from basic survival phrases to 30-minute conversations with my host family and friends.

The pivot point for me was a few days ago when I dreamed in Spanish. The next day I woke up not fearing to mess up and the mental inhibition to be shy just disappeared. The feeling is like learning to ride a two-wheel bike for the first time. It is exhilarating to ride around in circles for hours because you have accomplished something that took you so long to master. Although, I will mention that language acquisition for me has good days and bad days. However, I have been studying for about three hours a day which is helping me coalesce four semesters of Spanish coursework … so the days keep getting better. Additionally, the Spanish spoken in Quito is well-pronounced and slower. This tiny factor has made an immense impact on my ability comprehend idioms and grammatical nuances that I would normally miss otherwise.

Also, life in general has a different beat here. For example, there is a culture of almuerzos and café – aka lunchtime and coffee. Around 1-3 pm, it is very common for Quiteños, despite demanding jobs, to pause and enjoy lunch. Lunch, by the way, never costs more than $5 for a soup, main entrée, desert or coffee. And the food … the food is incredible.

In addition to lunch culture, there is very much a national appreciation for fruit. Because Quito is on the equator, well hydrated and far above sea level, the weather here is perfect for growing a diverse range of crops. Food that would normally cost a great deal in the U.S. is very affordable here. The low cost of food has made me fall even more in love with Quito because my budget has increased, which in turn, has allowed me to spend more money on excursions around the country. Just this past weekend, I went to the Otavalo Market, the largest indigenous commerce center in Latin America. Afterwards, I stopped by the middle of the earth and then to a cloud forest where I saw the Peguche Waterfall.

I forgot to mention that where I work is called Centro Historico. This zone of Quito was the first UNESCO World Heritage site of 1978. It’s majestic, lived-in, brimming with culture and smells of everything delicious in the world. At that, I digress and leave to craft a new blog post about my experience interning abroad.

Until next time!

Teddy Bruni is a senior studying English Literature as pre-law with a minor in Honors Interdisciplinary Studies. He is taking part in an intensive 9-week internship in the mayor’s office in Quito, Ecuador.

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