I have to be honest: it’s been difficult being back. I think almost everyday my thoughts wander back to my life abroad, in Ecuador, surrounded by people who I grew to love- my host family, my supervisor and apprenticeship, and all of my friends I made within the program. But if there’s one thing I left Ecuador with, it would be an improved version of myself. And I know that sounds selfish but it’s true.

Let me explain.

So I’m at this college fair with Senegal fellow Stephanie and Ecuador fellow Phuong working a station for Global Citizen Year. People come by to check out who we are and of course write their contact information down after we explain the different components of our bridge years. And before you know it I’m wrapped up in my own conversation. And here I am talking, well, storytelling about my time abroad.

As many of my fellow fellows have told me, it’s hard to sum up an eight months worth of experiences into so few words. Language matters, too. And regardless of whether the audience is formal or informal, I still think it’s hard to talk about something when, well, you don’t want to. Quite frankly, it’s more so the fact that I don’t know how to answer questions like “how was ecuador?!” How can I share honestly my time and experience abroad if I haven’t even fully processed everything myself? And I don’t really expect to anytime soon because there’s no deadline. That’s the beauty of it. To let my own experiences and emotions surrounding this past year to come naturally, to not force it. Of course, it’s still important to share and to find different mediums (writing) that work.

And with all the conversations that I have had and will have, they’ll only allowed me to process further. Take my capstone or just normal conversations with friends: Because in what I decide to share, these experiences are uniquely mine. That while my Ecuadorian life is no longer near, I still carry with me these experiences. It’s no longer thinking back to a better time but rather making meaning with what I have. And it’s only in creating meaning can I begin to fully process my time abroad, and understand the intricacies of what a life-changing and transformative year I embarked on.