Wellllll, today is the day that I leave the States and arrive in Ecuador, the nation in the center of our globe. It seems a little absurd that this is the first time that I am really sitting down to analyze my anticipations and thoughts about my upcoming adventure. My summer has been nothing short of a whirlwind, spent on the coast in Myrtle Beach, working full time at a little tex-mex restaurant and in a great community of about 90 college students together growing in our faith and learning to live it on the college campus. All along I knew that I wouldn’t be returning to Wofford’s campus for a while, but I enjoyed most every minute of my summer and it was very pivotal for my faith and walk with Jesus Christ. In many ways, it has changed my perspective and anticipations about my semester in Ecuador, which I will explain…
I just mentioned that Ecuador is a nation in the center of the globe. The equator runs right through the middle of the “República del Ecuador,” which translates to the “Republic of the Equator.” It sounds like this little country (roughly the size of Colorado) has laid claim on being the center of the universe and you better not tell them anything different! To be quite honest, before this summer this was my view of myself in being in the country in the center of the universe, the point around which all other life revolves: ”I, Jillian, am studying abroad in Ecuador in the fall, I will have all of these adventures in the world-famous Amazon Rainforest and the Galápagos Islands, I will find myself on the tropical soil and I may never come back because I will discover that it is my true and predestined homeland…” I imagined all of these glorious adventures that I would find abroad and I would come back to campus a changed person – wise, cultured and worthy of admiration. In the last two months, however, my attitude has been radically changed, my anticipations made realistic, my heart made much more humble, my thoughts decentralized from myself and re-centralized on something Greater in this experience. Studying abroad in Ecuador is the experience of a lifetime and I am in a state of disbelief that it is actually happening now. It seemed so abstract, mysterious and glamorous before. I expect that this experience will change me – in ways I anticipate and in ways that I cannot even expect. All of this is outside of myself – this opportunity and its effects on me – and that’s humbling for sure.
I believe that I will learn much about people. I will be meeting all new people from the moment I step off of the plane. I know not a soul in Ecuador currently or any of the students in my program that I will be studying with. I will also learn a lot about myself in relation to others. I know that I will have to become good at asking people questions about themselves, good at listening to their responses to learn about them, and good at trying to understand and have compassion on others.
I have always been an adventurous person, curious about new things and accepting of change. This experience will be nothing but adventure, new things and constant changes and I fully embrace these facts. I welcome the ways that I will be different because of the unique ones I will experience in Ecuador.
In thinking about the relationships I will make and experiences I will have alone, I become overwhelmed. I think the anticipation of the unknown has really humbled me because my mind cannot help but create the worst of scenarios for me to face. I pray that I do not face danger but I cannot be certain that I won’t. I have learned to face the reality of that possibility and trust that the God who I love is working for my good in all things I face. That fact alone gives me peace amidst my other overwhelming emotions. I could not do this on my own and I am glad that my heart has been made humble enough to realize that. This world does not revolve around me and the effects of the sin in the world do not magically avoid me always. I think that it will do me much good while I am in this country in the center of the globe to constantly remind myself of this fact.
Right now, my mindset is to take every day…shoot, every HOUR, one at a time. By the grace of God, I am equipped with enough Spanish and enough faith to take on this experience. He will grow me and stretch me in ways that are working towards His glory, and I am excited to see them unfold!