Story by Tori Baldassini, Global Co-op ⎜ Photo by Lauren Scornavacca
When I left Boston to go to Ecuador for six months to complete my global co-op with the non-profit organization, Manna Project International, I was filled with excitement. I had a lot to be excited about – I was about to embark on a life-changing adventure in Ecuador. During my time there, I made several great friends, connected with a community that is very different from my own, improved my Spanish, and got to travel to parts of the world I never imagined I would ever see. There were days when I would be sitting on a canoe exploring the Amazon rainforest, or lying on the beach of the Galapagos Islands, or even teaching English in front of my 37 adorable students, where I would just feel in awe of my life. Even thinking back on these experiences now, I feel extraordinarily grateful to have had the opportunity to learn and work in Ecuador.
However, there were also days when I missed Boston. I have lived in the Boston area my whole life, and the six month span I was in Ecuador was the longest I have ever gone without being near my home. The transition into fall in Ecuador was particularly difficult because I missed the change of season; Ecuador has a rather temperate climate, and there were no dramatic changes between the Summer and the Fall. Looking at the calendar and seeing it was October made me crave the crisp autumn air, the changing leaves, and of course, a pumpkin spiced coffee from Dunks.
But luckily, my feelings of homesickness never lasted long. If I started out my day feeling down, the excited energy of my students would almost always cheer me back up again. And when the energy of my students got out of hand and I started to feel overwhelmed, I could always rely on my friends to lend me a helping hand; I will forever be grateful for the wonderful support network I found while living in Ecuador. That being said, I was still very excited to head back home just in time for Christmas.
Now, having been back in Boston for the past two months, I am still really happy to be back. It’s been wonderful to see my family and friends here, and it was great to get to see Bostonians running through the streets because the Patriots won yet another Superbowl championship. But now, a part of me really misses Ecuador. When I am walking to class in freezing cold temperatures, I really miss its temperate climate; when I go out for an overpriced meal with my friends, I start craving the delicious $4 pork dish my neighbor used to make every Saturday. But most of all, I miss the people I was with everyday in Ecuador. Of course, technology has made it easier than ever to connect with people who are long distances away, but nothing can replace being able to joke around with my friends or seeing my students’ smiling faces everyday.
Ironically, although I proudly identify Boston as my home, I am feeling homesick here. As strange and difficult as this feeling has been for me, it has made me realize that Ecuador became my home for those six months. Although I will probably always crave Dunkin Donuts and cheer for the Patriots, Boston is not the only place that my heart can call home anymore. This realization has allowed me to think bigger about travelling and living in other places and cultures; but more importantly, it has made me appreciate the people and the wonderful little details that make a place feel like home.