Editor’s note: Destiny Ellingsworth is the communications intern at St. Paul. In June, Destiny traveled to Ecuador for an internship through her school, Western Illinois University. She lived and worked in a suburb of Quito called Cumbayá. Below, she shares some recollections of her experience.
My everyday life at home in the U.S. consists of scheduling nearly every minute of my day. One of the biggest shocks to me was how time is prioritized in Ecuadorian culture. Slight fear enters me when I hear the words “go with the flow,” so arriving in a country where that is the norm was terrifying, but even more enlightening. Upon arriving at the airport in Quito around 9 p.m., I thought I would head to bed by 10 p.m. and get a good night’s sleep after a long day of travel. Instead, I ended up at the 40th anniversary party of my host grandparents and danced with my new family until 2 a.m.
One weekend we visited the mountain Cotopaxi. After arriving at our hostel, we thought our guide was going to show us around outside on a short walk. Instead we hiked for six hours and ended up at a 15,000-foot elevation. Those are just a couple examples of where I had no choice but to learn to go with the flow.
In general, time is such a relaxed concept in Ecuador and not the top priority as I feel it is in the U.S. My first thoughts were “how does anything get done?” But by the end of my trip, I realized I had been extremely productive all month with significantly less stress. Every morning, regardless of the time, I sat down to breakfast and conversation with my family before we left for work.
Less than 24 hours into my trip I was “ñaña”(sister) and “hija”(daughter). I’ve never been welcomed and loved by strangers so quickly and unconditionally like I was with my host family. For a scared, first-time international traveler, my host family was the biggest blessing I could have received. From watching my dad make paella to doing my mom’s makeup for a party to playing soccer with my little brothers, I truly fell in love with my family and cannot wait to see them on their next trip to the U.S.
My favorite part about their culture is the importance of family. My host mom’s parents live in a house connected to ours. On the other side of them was an attached apartment for my host mom’s grandpa. In the same neighborhood were two other households with my aunt, uncle, and their families. Close doesn’t quite describe it. It was illuminating to see that everyone in my family was successful and had a career and a life of their own, but still valued family. Oftentimes there is a pressure on young people to “leave and go make something of themselves” but the difference in culture showed me success is not contingent on leaving your home or putting distance between you and your family.
Most of my time was spent creating content for the social media accounts of Universidad San Francisco de Quito, the highest-ranked university in Ecuador. I researched information from the school’s website or articles to obtain information for my content. I chose photos that the university photographer had taken or if needed, stock photos to be a visual representation of the topic. Next I used Photoshop to combine text and photos to create an image for a social media post.
I was blessed to be in an office with the entire digital marketing team. Each of the eight people had different specialties and I learned from each of them. I was so impressed with their eagerness to learn about how digital marketing is done in the U.S. and what draws the attention of a U.S. student. The number of international students at USFQ is increasing quickly, as well as the number of English-speaking students.
The university has about 32,000 followers on Instagram and believes that there is now a large enough percentage of English speakers to have some English content included on their pages. For those reasons, most of the content I created was in English.
During my internship I was able to dig deeper into the importance of social media in the world of marketing, allowing me to help shape my career path.
My fear and anxiety towards the unknown almost held me back from this opportunity. I did not know any students going on the trip, details of my internship duties, or any information about my host family and home. I am beyond thankful that I took a leap of faith and was able to see this beautiful country and create so many lifetime relationships. My time in Ecuador, although much too short, enhanced my perspective on life and I am eager to see where my next adventure will be!