All that is gold does not glitter. It is my expectation that many of the most valuable parts of this experience will seem at the time the most ordinary. And interactions with people will heavily outweigh any foreign food or museum.
Not all those who wander are lost. In Ecuador, we will be in a foreign land full of mystery. I hope that we will take advantage of the unknown and discover.
The old that is strong does not wither. This trip will strengthen us, but like most strength, it is gained through adversity. What will be our challenge? Many things, but don’t underestimate simply stepping outside. In Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings saga, Frodo quotes Bilbo saying:
“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out of your door,” he used to say. “You step onto the Road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there is no knowing where you might be swept off to.”
Deep roots are not reached by the frost. While we are exploring other peoples and lands and deepening our experiences, we ultimately can learn the most about the self. In light of what we experience, I hope we rethink ourselves and learn things which surprise (and possibly frighten) us. Then, with our deeper understanding of what it means to be ourselves, we can more fully serve others.
Now that I have gotten the MCAT behind me, all I can think about is our upcoming trip to Ecuador. This summer has been so busy up until now that it never really sunk in what exactly I was about to take a part in. This is more than just a trip; this is an experience of a lifetime that we are about to embark on. This is a journey unlike anything that I have ever experienced, but my heart is filled with nothing but joy and excitement with only four days left until we leave.
Having never been out of the country before, I don’t know what exactly to expect. Of course, I’ve heard all these stories and we’ve prepared as a team for things that we will encounter in the country. However, there is something special about leaving a place you know so well and going to an entirely new and different location. It’s a little nerve-racking, but I am absolutely exhilarated to have the chance to have an eye-opening experience like this one.
If there is one thing that LSU has taught me, it is to have an open mind about everything. I don’t think being open-minded has ever been more important in my life than right now as we are almost ready to set out on a trip to a completely different country with a way of life that will most likely strongly contrast the culture in the United States. It will probably be interesting adapting to a new place, a new city, and new customs. However, the key to adjusting to all of these “new” things is to look at our similarities and what brings us together rather than focusing on the customs that some people might deem as “strange”.
I can say without a doubt that I am ready for Ecuador and everything that this experience will bring. I’m not sure if I will ever be able to have another experience like this so I am going to make the most of it while I’m there. We have prepared for months for this, and now it is finally here. I am ready to give this trip to Ecuador everything that I have while standing alongside some amazing people from the greatest university in the nation.
I am so excited about my opportunity to travel to Ecuador this summer! This is so going to be an amazing trip. Having the opportunity to serve as one of the team leaders has taught me so much about myself as well as what it means to be a servant leader. Traveling to Ecuador with this group of students is one aspect of the trip that makes me smile. Our meetings over the course of this past school year has created bonds that will last a life time. I wake up and pinch myself daily because my dreams are coming true. This will be my first international service trip but it most certainly will not be my last. It has always been my belief that if you can inspire the man you can change the world. I believe my trip to Ecuador will be the inspiration that I need in my life right now. I look forward to the memories we will all make as well the nee stories we are writing in the book called the rest of our lives.
This trip may be the once in a lifetime chance to experience the culture Ecuador has to offer.
After spending five weeks in Spain last summer, I am anxiously awaiting the opportunity to explore life in another predominantly Spanish continent. I expect Ecuador to be very different from Spain though, whether it be the climate, food, music, people, everything really! It seems that many Americans sometimes lump Spanish-speaking people all into one group. This couldn’t be more of a misfortune because every country in the world is different! I can’t wait to absorb the distinct, Ecuadorian environment around me, learning as much as I can during the time we’re in Quito.
I feel fully confident that we will be safe during our travels. If anything, I’m nervous about the flight because I’m not that much of a frequent flyer! It’ll be so nice going all together, there and back.
Serving in Ecuador will be such a different trip than if a group of us were just going there for a vacation. There is nothing wrong with visiting other countries for pure exploration; we will just be exploring in more ways than one. A service-oriented trip will give us the privilege to discover people and places we would not be able to otherwise. While we are there, I hope we make real change happen. The definition of real change can be open to interpretation. According to Dictionary.com, the definition of change is to make the form, nature, content, future course, etc., of (something) different from what it is or from what it would be if left alone. This is not the reason we are going to Ecuador, per se. I don’t think we’re going to change people’s lives. The people of Ecuador will change ours. There is nothing wrong with the way other cultures live and I wouldn’t want to change anything about it. We will graciously serve while we’re there and hopefully have a lot of fun!
Ready or not, the service trip to Ecuador is right around the corner (t-minus 7 days), but READY WE ARE because after months of training and preparing, preparation will soon be united with opportunity. As a team we have learned to understand what it means to serve a community, and I cannot wait to actually put all of my knowledge to practical use. We have all already grown so much as a team with our discussions on international service, cultural differences, and making a difference in a community. This service trip will only strengthen our responsibility to be outstanding global citizens and leaders in the future.
In my opinion, service is an action that has a way of bridging the gap between humans, regardless of religion, culture, or race. Service goes beyond the conventional, and its presence has the ability to change lives and hearts. During this service trip, I am most looking forward to interacting with the people of Ecuador. I am really ready to indulge and infuse myself in the culture, so that I can leave Ecuador more educated about its culture and people. This is what I am most excited about. I do not return to the US as the same person that left. I want to come back as a person who has found a deeper love and appreciation for different, diverse cultures, traveling, people, and, above all, service. I want to learn how to serve with and not for.
CHANGEbreak is about making a difference, and I truly believe that we will make a difference in Ecuador. But I have a feeling that our service in Ecuador will have a profound change on the way we view the world, especially our lives in the US. In Ecuador we will see things we have never seen before like extreme poverty. Some of the situations may trigger emotions such as guiltiness, sadness, shock, anger, sympathy, or empathy. We will indeed have good times and memories filled with happiness, joy, and laughter; however, I believe those unpleasant emotions will change us the most. They will ignite our passion to serve the world, which will have positive, lasting effects that extend well beyond Ecuador.
I have been fortunate enough to serve on a CHANGE Break experience in Cusco and Cai Cay, Peru last year, and now I am preparing to help lead a team in Quito, Ecuador. Being a part of the Peru team as a freshman and having the opportunity to learn and serve in a completely new environment was a humbling experience and one that has helped define my college experience thus far. I am so thankful for the opportunity to continue my growth with CHANGE Break this year and help other student leaders also embark on an incredible service learning experience. With only about ten days until we depart, I am anxious but also very excited. I hope that we have covered all of our bases to help the students prepare; however, I am confident that we will be flexible and make the best of our experience. My greatest wish is that this experience is impactful for everyone in some way. Our intentions are not to “change the world” in this one experience. Instead, we hope to help enact some change, but mostly to help the students discover personal change–a change in perspective, mentality, and understanding. Upon returning, I want to challenge the team members to continue their service and also advocate for others to find their passion to serve.
We have had many meaningful conversations this year about what it means to serve and the importance of perspective. I was very inspired by the team member’s ideas, and I hope to continue these conversations while we are in-country and after returning to our daily lives here. The experience does not end once we land on U.S. soil. It is our responsibility to constantly reflect on what we have learned and use these lessons to improve the community around us.
I am most looking forward to watching the team transform from a group of people who have gotten to know each other casually while meeting throughout the year to a team that has shared experiences that will stay with them for a very long time. It is the group transformation, as well as the individual transformations that I am most excited to experience. Additionally, I am excited about the opportunity to listen, observe, and learn from those I encounter in Quito. It is not all about what I can give, but what I can learn.
I am ready for round two. Ready to forget all of the chaos of day to day life and take the time to enjoy the beauty in people again. One of my favorite quotes describes my feelings towards CHANGE Break and volunteering in general: “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others,” by Mahatma Gandhi. With this experience I hope to continue on my journey of self discovery by serving and learning from others. More than that, though, I hope to help my teammates personally grow.
Maybe that title was a little extreme but it’s the truth! We are all so very excited that the trip that we have been preparing for all semester is ONLY 19 more day away! Wooohooo!
What exactly am I thinking about before I embark on this journey to Ecuador? Well this may be a little nerdy (I can’t help myself) but let us look to the words of the one hit wonder- “The Final Countdown.”
“We’re leaving together,
But still it’s farewell
And maybe we’ll come back,
To earth, who can tell ?
I guess there is no one to blame
We’re leaving ground
Will things ever be the same again?”
I doubt that Europe was singing about a volunteer trip to Ecuador but it does have it’s similarities! These lyrics bring back the pressing questions that I ask myself every day- will Ecuador have so many amazing opportunities that we won’t ever want to leave and when we finally do come back, will we be the same person who left the U.S.?
We had a guest speaker come and speak to us and she just blew us away with all of the opportunities available to us while in Ecuador. In one direction there are tall, snowy mountains, in another direction there is the rain forest with the most exotic and colorful creatures that you have ever seen and then you have the city life as well as the access to the Galapagos Islands. Besides the varying geography, the thing I look forward to the most is the fresh produce that will be available to us! Little bananas the size of my pinky nail and engineered fruit that combines a strawberry and banana! Don’t worry, I won’t forget my yogurt drops, I’ll make sure that I stay healthy enough to experience it all!
Speaking of experiencing everything while we are there… I really wonder how much this trip will have an affect on me. I have been on mission trips before and they leave you with so much gratitude but after awhile you assimilate back into your daily routine and it all goes away. I am excited to go on this trip and have those reminders again. I am excited to find things that we feel that they lack (such as air conditioning) just aren’t really a priority to them because they would rather focus on their need of education or unemployment. It really puts into perspective how much we take for granted that isn’t even necessary to our daily lives.