Reflections from Ecuador
This program reflection is written by Natalie Reed, an Illinois first-year Environmental Sciences student, who embarked on her first Amizade program. It happened to be her first time outside of the US, too! Read more to hear from Natalie on how this experience impacted her.
Last summer, I signed up to go on a study abroad trip as a part of a first-year study abroad experience for students at the University of Illinois that would take place in the beginning of January. I was unsure about signing up, but since I’d never traveled abroad, I decided to try something new and go on the trip. I was also drawn to the sustainability and agriculture aspects of the trip because, as an environmental sciences student, those two topics are important to me.
Since I’d never been out of the US, I became more and more nervous the closer takeoff from the airport got. I remember being terrified of traveling to a new country the night before I left because of the idea of being somewhere unfamiliar and not knowing Spanish. After landing in Quito and spending over a week in Los Bancos, I think it’s funny how nervous I was about the trip.
Over the ten days I was in Ecuador, I fell in love with the country. While I learned a lot about agriculture, conservation, and sustainability, I also learned a lot about myself. Being immersed in nature and working with plants for a large portion of the trip made me realize how much I love being outside and working in the dirt. Working with Nido de Vida and helping them with their different projects helped me realize this passion. I helped plant vegetable seeds and tree saplings while learning a lot about their farm and their mission towards sustainability and conservation. Traveling to different farms and working with the elderly was also a good experience because it helped me connect with others in the country and learn from them about what they do for a living.
While I learned a lot about agriculture, conservation, and sustainability, I also learned a lot about myself.
As the trip went on and the day got closer to leaving, I became sad that I would have to leave and fly back to Illinois, where cold winter air awaited me. I was sad to leave and say goodbye to everyone who showed me so much kindness and hospitality. I made long-lasting connections with everyone on the trip and made memories that I will always hold close to my heart. At the beginning of this trip, I was terrified to travel somewhere unfamiliar, but now I am glad I decided to face my fears head-on. Words cannot express how thankful I am to everyone on the trip and how meaningful the entire experience was for me. I will always be grateful to everyone at Nido de Vida for changing my life, and I will always dream about the day I can return to the beauty of Ecuador.
At the beginning of this trip, I was terrified to travel somewhere unfamiliar, but now I am glad I decided to face my fears head-on. Words cannot express how thankful I am to everyone on the trip and how meaningful the entire experience was for me.
Thank you, Natalie, for sharing this impactful experience with us!
If you want to experience this transformation for yourself, check out our upcoming opportunities in Ecuador like the Reflective Practice Retreat and the Family Program.