Five Senior School students travelled to Quito, Ecuador during Spring Break to take part in an exchange trip. It was a new and exciting experience for all of them. Below, two Grade 11 students – Lily Li and Gigi Ma – write about their exchange.
What was the best part of the exchange?
Lily – The best part about my Ecuador exchange was getting to know new people from completely different cultures and making friends with them. I still remembered meeting my best friend named Thaiz at TerraNova on the first day of school. Thaiz was my partner. She is a lovely girl and her warm, sweet smile made me feel welcomed to the school, to Quito and to Ecuador from the first moment we met. We soon became good friends. She introduced all of her friends and classmates to me. Thaiz and I always sat together in the classroom and ate lunch together. With her companionship, I did not feel lonely or homesick at all. I think getting to know people like Thaiz is the most wonderful part of my Ecuador exchange because the friendship leaves me with amazing memories and is worth cherishing forever.
Gigi – The best part of my exchange trip is getting know new people with different values. I was staying with Isabella’s family in Quito, and it was a great pleasure to spend time with them and share our experiences. Isabella and I have a lot in common – we both love music and art, and therefore, I started listening to music from some local bands from Quito, while she also became familiar with some Chinese folk music. At the school there, I met some amazing people with enthusiasm and optimism, who gave me so much help that I felt like I became one of them in such a short amount of time.
What was the most eye-opening part about living in Ecuador?
Gigi – The most eye-opening part of living in Quito is the street art we found in the neighborhood. It is extremely difficult to find a great amount of street art in either Canada or China, and all the graffiti and stickers in Ecuador are incredible. I took a lot of photos of those stunning pieces of art.
Lily – The most surprising part about living in Ecuador for me was its consistently changing weather. I still remember that on a beautiful sunny day my host family was taking me to see the Cotopaxi, one of the most famous, highest active volcanoes in Ecuador and I was so excited about it; however, when we almost got there (after two hours of driving), it suddenly started to rain heavily. Because of the safety concerns, we ended up having to go back home without reaching the summit of Cotopaxi. The weather in Ecuador can change so much that we would wear a jacket, a sweater or a hoodie in the morning and end up going home in a T-shirt and a pair of shorts. It was an interesting experience to pass through what felt like all four seasons in one day. The most challenging part about living in Ecuador for me was the language and the daily timetable. For the language part, Spanish is the official language in Ecuador; however, “Hola” and “¿Cómo estás?” were the only things I was able to speak until the day we arrived at Mariscal Sucre International Airport. Although the difference between languages was a challenge living in Ecuador, to catch the school bus with my host sister at exactly 6:44 am was even more adventurous for me. I’m a boarder at SMUS, so I live on campus. Taking a school-bus was completely a new experience for me – not to mention getting up before 6 am every day and thoroughly applying 70-SPF sunscreen before I left the house.
What did you gain from this experience?
Gigi – Before going on the exchange trip to Ecuador, I always wondered how different it would be to be someone growing up in a developing country with Latin American culture in South America. At the end of the trip, I realized that there are actually no differences between kids from Quito and kids from other parts of the world. They can still chase their dreams with the support of their parents. While there are some differences depending on where you grow up, kids are always going to be kids.
Lily – From this experience, I learned that one of the most important things to do in life is to keep learning. Sometimes we all feel like we have already worked very hard and studied a lot, but in fact there is always something more to learn. When we were in Ecuador, for example, I realized that I could communicate with my Ecuadorian friends’ parents so much better if I was able to speak more Spanish. No matter how many things we have learned already, where we have been or how old we are, we should always be willing to learn and have a curious, open mind. Although the language challenge could not be overcome or solved immediately, I believe that as long as one keeps learning and takes one step after another each day, one will eventually become an excellent Spanish speaker. Not only for Spanish or any other language, but also for any other things from a big life-long dream to a final Physics exam. As long as we believe in what we are doing and keep working towards it, the hard work can eventually pay off. Always remember to keep learning. Learning not only makes us better people, but it also often gives us gifts and surprises to enjoy our lives more and to have better experiences!