My first day in Ecuador started at 9:30 pm on August 16th, 2011.  When I arrived in at the airport and made my way to customs, I think I suffered my first bout of culture shock.  First of all, my bags were over weight and I could not carry or pull them by myself so I tried to ask a baggage man if he could lift them onto a cart for me. Well… I struggled through my first sentence so terribly that I had to explain myself with just my hands.  How embarrassing!!  When I arrived at my host family’s house I felt extremely dizzy and nauseous because I was exhausted, on medicine for my allergies, and much more elevated than I was in Wisconsin. The first night I cried myself to sleep because I thought I was going to suffer from altitude sickness for the entire four months (luckily, it was gone the next day).  It was very different when I decided to leave my house the next day to explore the city a little bit with my friend.  I walked outside and saw Quito in the daylight for the first time and I was scared.  There was graffiti everywhere, people selling random stuffed animals and ice cream in the streets, roasted pig heads sitting out on the street vendor carts, huge city busses packed with people face to face, and pollution galore. I was honestly so scared and I wondered how I would make it though the next four months. Once I started school and met some of my now really good friends, I began to warm up to the country of Ecuador and I remembered the saying, “Just because something is different, does not mean it is wrong.” I think that is an EXCELLENT quote to live by when studying abroad. Another thing that caught me off guard at first was the kiss on the cheek for a greeting, even if you have never met the person before. At first I backed away because I did not know why people were getting so close to me and invading my bubble.  But now, I greet my gringa friends that way! =) I LOVE ECUADOR!

Jenny LeMere is studying abroad at Universidad San Francisco de Quito in Quito, Ecuador.