Audrey O'Connell is one of Spirit's 2017 Volunteer Abroad Ambassador Scholarship winners. She is volunteering at a child-care center in Quito, Ecuador for four weeks through our partner in Ecuador, Fundación Bolivar Education.
Layover in Houston
Hi everyone, my name is Audrey O’Connell, and I am one of the scholarship recipients for this year! Right now, I’m sitting in the Houston airport waiting for my connecting flight to Quito. I was so nervous when I woke up this morning; I didn’t know how I would be able to get on an airplane to go to a foreign country alone, but now the excitement is hitting me. I’m from the suburbs of Chicago and I go to school in New Orleans, so I’m excited to learn more about the culture of Quito because it is something that I have never experienced before.
I heard about this scholarship through my Spanish professor at school, and I’m so happy that I decided to apply because I am involved in community service at school, and I am working on a minor in Spanish. This seemed like the perfect combination, and now that I have everything prepared, I just have to go!
Arrival in Quito
Due to an hour and a half rain delay in Houston, I didn’t arrive in Quito until about 1:30 am. One of the teachers from the school was there holding a sign with my name on it, and after introducing ourselves, we drove to my host mom’s house. I’m very glad that he was the first person I talked to in Spanish because, being a teacher, he was very kind and helpful when I was struggling to speak the language. He kept the conversation going, and when I forgot a word or messed up grammatically, he corrected me or explained the conjugation. I was surprised at myself because I found that I could communicate fairly easily, but I have noticed that I keep saying the same phrases over and over. Obviously it’s only the first day, but I hope that I can broaden my vocabulary and learn to conjugate faster in conversation while I’m here.
Coming from Illinois, the mountainous terrain of Quito was the thing that struck me the most. I really enjoyed looking at the lights from the houses that were packed into the mountains. Also, I noticed how the roads differ from those in the US; there are many circular intersection-like streets that I’d never seen at home. When we got off the highway, we rode on very narrow streets, which are typical and make up the city.
When I arrived at my host family’s house, I was greeted so warmly that I felt at home immediately. My host mom is so kind and welcoming, and she showed me around the house before going to bed, even though it was 3 am. She told me that there is another volunteer coming tomorrow, and we will be sharing a room. I can’t wait to meet her and see more of Quito!