Taking chances in new country

How studying abroad makes one grow

Anjali Vattem, Guest Writer

Anjali Vattem and their horse Martin pose for a photo together in Banos, Ecuador. Vattem was able to ride Martin through the city and forests. (Courtesy of Anjali Vattem)

This has been a time for me to reflect on my experience studying abroad in Quito, Ecuador, with the affiliated program, Living and Learning. When people study abroad, they often think of a place to get away from home. That is not how I viewed it. I saw my study abroad experience in Ecuador as a place to grow as an individual, a place that I called home for four months.

During my first week in Ecuador, we did all sorts of get-to-know-you exercises. The exercises were simply a way to get to know the environment, the culture and people we were going to be living with for four months. I adored and savored every moment from being away.

During those months, we had weekly chapels on Wednesdays. We would sing, sometimes dance, pray, journal and take in the relationship we have with God. I always felt there was this empowering vision of staying close to my faith. Being away, I felt my relationship with God grew stronger because I was able to share my special moments with people that had the same faith as me.

I never truly felt at home until I studied abroad. I never thought of Ecuador as a place to get away from my home, but rather a place I can call home. To this day, I miss the culture, the food, the people and, most of all, the friendships I created with citizens and students from other universities. 

I am extremely grateful for the kind of experience I had. There may have been times where I felt that homesickness and wanted to come home sooner because I took in a

new culture, a new environment and new friendships, but I am glad I stayed. I got to experience so many different things such as going to the middle of the world, Machu Picchu, the Galapagos Islands, hiking a snowy mountain, staying with a host family and creating new friendships.

I enjoyed every moment that I was away because I was able to grow so much as an individual. It has now been three months since I have been back in the states, but it feels like it was yesterday that I came back. 

Every now and then, I look at all the pictures, videos and texts I have sent people within the program because I still cannot believe that being abroad ended. If I could go back, I would. I miss the beauty of the jungle, waterfalls, city and, again, the people. The people there were so welcoming and heartwarming.

I felt everyday was a new adventure I was going to take on. I loved everything about the country, but did I have bad moments? Of course. It is normal to have that. I am just grateful and fortunate enough to have been given this opportunity to study abroad. 10 years from now, I want to look back on my college life with no regrets. I did not want to finish college without having that study abroad experience. I knew I would have regretted it if I did not take that chance, but I am glad I did.

I am who I am today because of that experience I had. I chose South America and Ecuador because I wanted to see and know something different. You always hear people talk about how they studied abroad in Europe or Asia, but I wanted to do something out of the ordinary. I did and could not be happier with the decision. 

Every day, I miss the beauty of the country, food and my internship, but I would not

trade that experience for the world. If a person ever wants to study abroad, I just want to say, do not study at a place where someone wants you to study, but rather where you choose to go. It is your life and your experience. If someone asks me now or even 10 years from now if they should study abroad, I would say absolutely. It will be an unforgettable experience. 

But my motto for them and everyone is take chances. You may never get the opportunity back, so live your life with no regrets. Make the most of it and experience new places and cultures. That is how people should envision study abroad. Be happy and do the things you love.