Three weeks have passed since I arrived home. Nostalgia, wistfulness, happiness — I feel it all. That trip, I thought, will be something I remember for the rest of my life.
Along with five other Haverford students and one student from Perkiomen Valley High School, I traveled to Ecuador this past summer for a two-week exchange and cultural emergence program with the Colegio Americano de Guayaquil. Four months earlier, we hosted our “brothers” in Philadelphia and would immediately see familiar faces upon our arrival.
Yet, two days before the trip, I found myself completely mortified. Bereft of any travel experience outside of the United States and Europe, this trip would certainly be unfamiliar. It didn’t help that whenever I notified anyone of my plans, I was often met with the “Don’t die!” response.
At least I wasn’t alone, I thought.
On the faces of the other students, I could see the same angst. At least I wasn’t alone, I thought.
Our arrival in Guayaquil, Ecuador, on a Sunday night immediately eliminated all of our apprehension. At the airport, our exchange partners met us with a warm greeting, and we were at home. We no longer felt scared nor in danger.
The warm welcome carried over into our first day of school.
Every single student at the Colegio Americano de Guayaquil graciously welcomed us. During the first week, we became closer with some of CAG’s students than anyone could think possible in such a short period of time. Whether it was teaching us new Ecuadorian words or making us fall with their soccer moves, the students were kind and welcoming.
When we left for the weekend to tour Ecuador’s capital city, Quito, we were all disappointed. While we all looked forward to the various activities of Quito — hiking, ziplining, white-water rafting, and visiting the actual center of the world (coordinates 0.18° S, 78.46° W)—none of us wanted to leave our new friends at school.
Our time in Quito offered some amazing sights. The mountain Quilotoa was the most beautiful terrain any of us had ever seen. And zip lining, although very terrifying, provided a staggering view of the Andes Mountains.
After that weekend, we happily returned to Guayaquil. And that enjoyable atmosphere continued into our second week. Despite missing a day of class due to a trip to the beach, we became even closer with our new friends.
In the blink of an eye, it was our last day. We had to say some hard goodbyes.
We had all made friends for life.