Amanda Langan: Why I’m Going To Ecuador

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Pompton-LanganWhen I tell people I’m taking a gap year in Ecuador instead of going straight to college, there are two types of responses I receive. Some people bombard me with questions; others give me a blank stare, not sure what taking a gap year really means. People often ask, “Why don’t you want to go straight to college?” “What about basketball?” “Isn’t it dangerous?” I’m sure some people also think of the stereotype that a gap year is just an expensive trip for the ultra-wealthy. And then there’s my dad, who wonders how I’m going to survive in a country with bugs everywhere, since I scream when I see a minuscule ant.

While some of those are valid points, I would like to set the record straight for myself, and the many other students who plan to take gap years. While there are an infinite number of things you can do on a gap year, I will be traveling to Ecuador with a program called Global Citizen Year, where I will be living with a host family for about eight months. Through Global Citizen Year (GCY), I will be placed in an internship where I will work in the community and improve my global understanding and Spanish skills. The possibilities for an internship range from teaching kindergarteners to working on a potato farm.

Coming from an affluent suburb where the hardships range from no free Wifi to missing an episode of Mad Men, I am looking forward to opening my eyes to a new type of hardship.

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If you are still not persuaded that this is a good idea, allow me to address the question, “Why wouldn’t you want to go straight to college?”

Anyone who knows me knows that I have been counting down the days to college freedom for a long time. However, by taking a gap year I hope to gain a better insight into myself and will be more focused during the next four expensive years in college. Plus, I don’t think Indiana University, which I plan to attend, is going anywhere in the next twelve months.

“What about basketball?”

Although basketball was my life for…all my life, I am ready to slowly detach myself from the commitment of the sport. Although I do hope to share some of my experience and enjoyment of athletics with my host family in Ecuador.

“Isn’t it dangerous?”

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When I think of dangerous things, Ecuador doesn’t pop up on my radar. Yes, I will be in a foreign country, with a foreign language, and foreigners, but that doesn’t scare me. In fact, it excites me. Bad things can surely happen in Ecuador, but they can also happen here, or anywhere. And they usually don’t.

As for the gap year stereotype, I understand where it comes from. According to Urban Dictionary, a gap year is one which “posh kids spend traveling the world using daddy’s money after leaving their expensive private schools.” And while there are some posh kids out there, there are also public school kids like me. Global Citizen Year is helping to change the gap year stereotype by offering financial aid to over 80 percent of their Fellows, me included. Over one-third receive full scholarships.

Global Citizen Year is a non-profit organization which aims to create a new generation of global awareness and leadership. Funding for its scholarships comes from the GCY participants themselves. GCY requires each participant to raise at least $2,500 toward the scholarship fund. The organization wants to “ensure that this experience remains accessible to the best applicants… no matter what their background.”

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So if you were someone who thought like Urban Dictionary, or even if you didn’t, please support my fundraising efforts: Contributions can be made in my name through the website. For more information on my fundraiser, An Ecuadorian Fiesta, on July 27, please call 973-830-9211.

Help lessen the amount of blank stares by becoming a part of something bigger.

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6 COMMENTS

  1. Amanda, I applaud you on your decision to take a gap year. I have always believed that not all teenagers are actually ready for college right after they graduate from high school. I think you need to explore, get a taste of the real world (before you actually need to commit to it) and truly understand the meaning of why one goes to college.

  2. You are going to love Ecuador. I’m Ecuadorian, but have been living in the USA for about 19 years. Every summer, I go back to my country. I live in Quito and Baños. If you need a place to stay, Plaza Foch has hostels and it’s an amazing area. I went straight to college after high school, and I regret it. I’m still not sure what I want to do.

    Enjoy Ecuador!

  3. we moved to Cuenca, Ecuador a little over a year ago. You will not be disappointed. The Ecuadorian people are wonderful, and Ecuador is an extremely beautiful country. I applaud you for wanting to learn about the world. One year in Ecuador is worth several years in college. You may not want to return to the states!

  4. this came up on my reader, and i am so proud to read this! i live on the pacific coast of ecuador and love love love the beautiful people who have befriended me and enhance the quality of each day. it’s not only the ones that i know, but also most any stranger that i meet. they’re kind and patient and accepting, and ==== ecuadorian food is fantastic!!!

    have a great year! congratulations!
    lisa

  5. Go Amanda! Godspeed as you prepare for a life-changing experience. Keep an open mind and open heart and while you are learning about the world, I am certain you will learn more about yourself. College can wait!

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