I had started my countdown to go home right around the halfway point. It wasn’t that I was ready to leave, just that I was ready to go home (as if that makes any sense at all). I so badly wanted to see my family and friends. I hadn’t realized it when I left, but I have really close and strong relationships with the special people in my life, and being away from them for so long was THE hardest thing I had to overcome/deal with in my whole study abroad experience.

Now having said that, within the last few days, when my friends posted on my facebook each day with the number of days I had left, and when skype dates became unnecessary because I was going to see those people in a few short days, I started to feel really overwhelmed and anxious. Was I really ready to leave this experience behind and begin a whole new chapter of my life? To go back to Appleton, Wisconsin? It just seemed unfathomable to go from Quito, Ecuador back to my small, boring (for lack of a better word), and normal hometown.

Whether I was ready or not, my plane left on Thursday morning, and I was on it, after a few bumps in the road with migration and a “routine” check of my baggage. I made it home safely, a little late, to a group of my friends making a scene in the airport because of how excited they were to see me. Between my farewell at the airport with my tearful host mother and my gleeful reception, I have never felt so blessed. I have so much I’m taking back from this experience, but the most important thing is how I’ve realized how blessed I am with all of the people around me, including my crazy friends and my now even bigger family. Now that I am home, it feels amazing to be with the ones I love, but part of me is still in Ecuador, and I think forever it will stay.

Leah Zwiers is studying abroad at Universidad San Francisco de Quito in Quito, Ecuador.