My placement:
I was placed in a public school in Quito, Ecuador teaching 3-5th grade English. I helped in a variety of classes one or two times throughout my stay to get a feel for the different levels of English in different grades. The best parts of my stay were teaching songs; getting involved with the cheerleading team at the school; and going on adventures with so many different people. 

The host culture:  Ecuadorians are the most accepting and welcoming people I have ever come across. My host family brought me to multiple family events making me feel like I belonged. I stayed with another teacher for a week to experience a different setting. I went on a hike with the gym teacher. I travelled to a cheer competition with the team and the girls’ families took care of me the whole time. Also the food! I liked everything I tried!

Practicing language skills:
Normally, exchange teachers get placed with the head English teacher at the school but there was already someone living with them so I was placed with a 5th grade teacher’s family. They spoke no English. I spoke VERY little Spanish. The first 4 days were rough, not going to lie. I knew I just needed to embrace it and take it as a learning opportunity. I swear I learned more Spanish in those 10 weeks living with my family then I did in the 4 years of Spanish I had taken throughout HS and college. I wouldn’t have traded this part of my experience for the world - it’s what made it so hard to leave. 

Ecuadorians are the most accepting and welcoming people I have ever come across. My host family brought me to multiple family events making me feel like I belonged.

Professional skills:
The list is infinite. It taught me that you get out as much as you put in. I learned that communication is of upmost importance and if you want something, ask for it. I witnessed firsthand that those who feel appreciated and included perform better. I learned to rely on coworkers to help me in all aspects of my life. I learned that being prepared is important but being flexible is even more important. I gained numerous techniques from working in the school, but this opportunity has helped make me a more open-minded, culturally aware teacher. By teaching in Ecuador, I have a unique perspective of schools and education as a whole that has opened a whole new door of opportunities I had no idea about 3 years ago.

Advice for future students:
My best advice is to say yes every time someone asks you if you want to do something while you are in your placement - even if it’s out of your comfort zone. By saying yes, I went to a teachers retreat; chaperoned field trips; spent a week at a private school to learn the differences between the education systems; went to 2 weddings; planned a baby shower; won a pageant/dance contest to be the “Queen of Public Schools Quito”; explored tons of historical buildings; played with monkeys; joined a basketball team; and ate tons of new food. Detaching from the US (mainly social media) allowed me to be present in Ecuador and my 10 weeks there were the best moments of my life.

Staying involved:
I owe my whole future to Global Gateway for Teachers. I attended Indiana Purdue Fort Wayne (now Purdue Fort Wayne) and heard about Global Gateway for Teachers two semesters before student teaching. Dr. Stachowski was more than accommodating and answered all my questions. My Associate Instructor and everyone else in the Global Gateways program helped me throughout the whole process and made it as smooth as it could be even though I wasn’t a traditional student in the program - everything from finances to actually being in Ecuador. I plan to get my masters in the next few years and I’m looking at programs working with bilingual, international and/or English language learners. When I was working towards my degree in Education, I didn’t even consider this possible field of work - now I can’t get enough of it!