Republic of the Sky

By Victoria Zhao

This summer, I will be spending sixty days in Ecuador.

Sixty days.

Sixty days living in a completely unfamiliar country around the other side of and on the Equator, sixty days working with various communities with different cultures, sixty days communicating in a language that I have only before practiced in the safety of a classroom.

Sixty days.

This feeling is absolutely nerve-wracking, frightening, and exhilarating.

I am an immigrant to the United States myself, so travel is not wholly unfamiliar to me. But this summer will be the first time that I spend a significant period of time in a country that does not primarily speak the two languages that I am most comfortable with. Up until now, I have had little practical experience with communicating in Spanish. In Ecuador, I will be completely surrounded by the language, from the homestay families that I will be living with to the field work that I will be conducting with the other Social Entrepreneur Corps interns of in Ecuador.

The Republic of Ecuador, named for its location on the Equator, is also nicknamed one of the Republics of the Sky for the Andes Mountain range and the beautiful geographic scenery throughout the country. Continental Ecuador itself is actually divided into three regions: La Costa, La Sierra, and El Oriente. Elevation throughout the country ranges from sea level in La Costa to over twenty thousand feet in La Sierra. For these eight weeks, we will work in Cuenca (Azuay), Riobamba and Pulinguí (Chimborazo), and Zamora and Loja.

A detailed map of Ecuador.

A detailed map of Ecuador.

Right now, I say “we”, but the other interns are only names on a sheet of paper. Although fifteen University of Maryland students are participating in Social Entrepreneur Corps programs this summer, I am the only student from the class to be working in Ecuador. Although I have researched information about international development and have learned in the classroom about the models of the program, I still do not completely know what to expect.

I cannot recall any time that I have felt more nervous or uncertain. But as I imagine the adventures that I am sure to have and the new people that I am sure to meet, I have come to realize that I am most excited by the uncertainty within in all. Today, my recommended packing list may be too vague, my bags may weigh slightly more than the international travel limit, and my body may not be ready to acclimate to the different climate and environment, but I am prepared to give this my all. Prepared. For what is sure to be an unforgettable adventure.

This summer, I am spending sixty days in Ecuador… and I absolutely cannot wait for my experience to begin.

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