This week WorldTeach is able to share some reflections from Elizabeth Paiva, our Ecuador Assistant Field Director and 2015 alumnus. Elizabeth not only discusses her own experiences in Ecuador, but also shows the care and support WorldTeach field staff provide throughout our programs.

To learn more about WorldTeach in general click here. Currently, WorldTeach’s offers a Year Program and Summer Program!

Hopping into a cab, I head to Mariscal Sucre International Airport. Despite having completed six of these since starting my position as Assistant Field Director, arrival day remains a highlight for me. Arrival day means that we are receiving a brand-new group of eager and enthusiastic volunteers. For me, it is an opportunity for one of my thrice-yearly reflections. As we speed through Guapulo and out into one of the valleys surrounding the city, I take a moment to look out the windows as the impressive green mountains that rise from the landscape. Closing my eyes, I am taken back to the day that I arrived in Quito as a new volunteer. The inconveniences and challenges of living in Ecuador–from the highly bureaucratic and difficult visa process to the gringo tax to the bold stares of strangers–fade from my mind.

I remember the excitement of my first few days in a new country. The mountains in my line of vision, the new and sometimes strange flavors of local food in my belly, the sounds of Andean Spanish and a bit of kichwa in my ears. More than anything, the feeling of sensory overload for the first few weeks as I adjusted to my new home. I remember the nerves of anticipation in the days before I started teaching for the first time, lesson planning for two distinct levels, and the joy and sense of accomplishment from completing my first day, week, and cycle of teaching. On the weekends, I spent my time getting to know my city and also traveling to the various regions throughout Ecuador.

Having served as a participant in WorldTeach’s Ecuador program provides a special advantage as field staff. One of the basic benefits is that I have a clear understanding of our local partner institutions and how they function. That familiarity allows me to better assist volunteers with technical questions and concerns. More importantly, I intimately understand and appreciate the struggles and high points of the WorldTeach Ecuador volunteer experience. Though at times it can feel like my service was in the very distant past, orientation always brings me right back to my early days as a volunteer. Harnessing those memories allows me to be the best supervisor and supporter that I can be to incoming volunteers. In connecting with my own experiences, I am able to truly empathize with my volunteers while at the same time bring back the initial excitement of living in Ecuador to my role.

Other Ecuador Links