The Reality of Culture Shock

During my first three weeks in Ecuador, I was living in a
bubble. My host family in Quito was well off and provided the comforts of
Internet, plumbing, and a warm shower. My daily schedule consisted of spending
time with other Fellows, which involved speaking English and being with people
who I knew and could connect with. Needless to say, I loved it all. I made some
awesome friends and did incredible things, like hiked up a 15,000+-foot volcano
and visited the U.S. Embassy. My three weeks in Quito for In-Country
Orientation were a great introduction to my Global Citizen Year, but nothing
could fully prepare me for what I was about to encounter.

Since arriving at my six-month homestay in Pedro Vicente Maldonado last week (three
hours northwest of Quito), I have had a hard time adjusting to the extremely
different conditions I am living in. I thought my past experiences would have prepared
me, but the realization that I will be living without plumbing and with limited
amounts of electricity has been tough and forced me to accept that this is my
reality for the next six months. While I am able to understand this, it is
still something I struggle with on a daily basis. Every bucket shower I take
and restless night I spend listening to the non-stop cry of the roosters is
uncomfortable; the thick humidity makes everything feel sticky and unclean; and
being the only ‘gringo’ in the town is extremely lonely. Adjusting to this
lifestyle is far more challenging than I thought it would be and is going to
take a lot of time and patience on my part.

Global Citizen Year wasn’t kidding when they said you will experience some of your
highest highs and lowest lows this year. Right now, I am hitting a low point
and it is more real than I could have ever imagined. My struggle with culture
shock is going to take time and the adjustment period is not going to be an
easy. However, since realizing these challenges, I have also come to understand
how much potential and opportunity there is to grow and learn this year. Before
leaving for Ecuador, I told people how great this adventure was going to be
without knowing what exactly I was talking about. Now that I am living the
experience, I truly understand what Global Citizen Year alumni mean when they
say it’s a life-changing experience. Overcoming my culture shock and becoming a
part of my community is going to be a big test, but is also going to be a major
highlight of my seven months here in Ecuador. No day is going to be easy, but
working to move from the lows to the highs is going to be the most fulfilling and
memorable part of my journey.