Cody Ford is a rising senior majoring in Politics & International Relations, as well as Finance

(What is From the Field? Click here to read the intro for this latest segment to our student blog series!)

I am going to be completely upfront with everyone, before this trip Ecuador wasn’t a place on my travel bucket list. I have been blessed with the opportunity to travel around the globe and see many remarkable places, and in my mind, Ecuador didn’t match what I would call remarkable. But, after having the opportunity to travel through this breathtaking country and interact with its truly beautiful people, I can now proudly say that I was wrong about everything. During our travels, I had the opportunity to truly learn what it means to adapt to an entirely new place and feel uncomfortable – but the kind of discomfort that allows you to grow. I also learned about the importance of community, both with the people I traveled with and also within the places that we went. I am forever grateful that I took the opportunity to travel to Ecuador with Dr. Lauermann and the rest of the class, this trip has become a defining part of my college experience and I am so ready to travel back in the near future.

When thinking about the professional development I experienced while in Ecuador, the one that comes to the forefront of my mind is learning to feel okay with being uncomfortable. I have always found myself in a position where I never necessarily felt uncomfortable jumping into new experiences: from being elected to serve my campus as Student Body Vice President, interning in one of the most cut-throat investment banks in the world, or even deciding to attend college across the country from my home. But being in an entirely new country for a purpose other than tourist activities had me feeling a tad bit uneasy. I had done the reading and prepared to the best of my ability, but thinking about meeting with the important community leaders, visiting the National Assembly, and touring the Presidential Palace added a new layer to the travel experience that I had yet to experience. But it was in these experiences that I was able to learn and grow the most because I had no preconceived notions or knowledge that would affect my learning. Getting to connect with the Love On Foundation and working with their students for a short while was a truly amazing experience, even if I was simply helping them glue paper, and while trying to do it in my very beginner level Spanish, it was still an impactful event that I will carry forward throughout my professional experiences. This trip showed me that even in the midst of not knowing, there is always a path to follow even if you cannot necessarily see it. And regardless of the destination, the journey is what makes it all worth it.

It is hard to describe the feelings I felt while in Ecuador, but what I can remember is sharing those feelings with everyone that I was on the trip with. From being in awe of the Cotopaxi volcano with everyone and watching in wonder from the rooftop of our hotel in Riobamba as its snowcapped peak would peek through the clouds. This trip would have not been the same had I experienced it with another group. Seeing Dr. Lauermann’s passion for Latin America, and specifically Ecuador, truly shaped my mindset going into this trip, and I can say that it rubbed off on all of us. The same is true for all the amazing community members we met while abroad. Everywhere we went we were brought in with open arms and shown an immense amount of hospitality, even if we were only visiting for a short time. Traveling throughout the highlands of Chimborazo, from the city of Riobamba to the capital of Quito, with the group was a true blessing. From exploring Parque La Carolina, the Central Park of Quito, to enjoying an espresso in the many coffee shops we visited, we embodied what it meant to be more than a tourist, we tried to truly embrace everywhere we traveled and look beyond the veil and see this beautiful country for all it truly is.

The beauty of this county is one of the many things that struck me the most. I can say that one of my favorite experiences was when we traveled to Teleferico Quito and rode in a cable car to the top of Guagua Pichincha. Once we got to the top it was a truly breathtaking view of the vast city and the vast mountains that surround the city. Standing on the edge and feeling the wind blow through my hair while overlooking the historic city is an experience I wouldn’t trade for the world. And to top it all off, in the heat of the moment, we all decided to hike towards the peak. I always thought that I was a relatively fit person but trying to hike up a mountain at 13,000 feet put me into my place. However, regardless of how out of breath, I was, standing in the literal clouds and basking in the glory of creation.

Overall, I am forever grateful that I decided to go out on a limb a class that involved traveling to an entirely new country and experiencing an entirely new culture. Dr. Lauermann’s overview of the class in the fall semester was definitely true, and some of the experience was even better than what she showed off. Getting to travel the country with new friends and experience all the beauty in both the creation and the community have cemented Ecuador as one of my favorite travel experiences. I was able to learn so much due to the vulnerability that I allowed myself to feel while abroad, and those experiences have impacted me in more ways than one. But I think my biggest takeaway is the importance of community. We are not called to be individualistic and isolated from people, but instead called to fellowship with all people, and it is when we adopt this mindset that we can see the heavenly beauty in all things.

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