As I prepared to leave Quito, I took a moment to reflect on how I felt throughout my time here. In my first month, I was overwhelmed with so many new things at once, working at a new PR agency and position in Quito, adjusting to working remotely…and acclimating a new country with a different language. In my second month I was more slightly settled in; I focused on taking on additional responsibilities of work, but still sometimes asked myself, “What am I doing here?”
As I reached my halfway mark, I finally felt more acclimated to my surroundings. And in the fourth month I even knew enough to function as a tour guide for my family when they visited in December. My fifth month included pushing myself with several projects and new responsibilities at work, as I relaxed in the city that started to feel like a home. And as I wrapped up my final month, I ended my time in South America with a trip through Peru which I will definitely be writing about shortly.
While not always easy, I can already look back on the lifestyle and career adjustments and feel extremely proud of where I am now. For this important Quito post, I want to discuss three lessons I learned from my time there and how they helped me both professionally and personally.
I love Quito, and it will always be a special place to me. I can affectionately say that it took some getting used to. It’s a city where businesses seem to never have change, so good luck using a $20 bill for a quick lunch (and the ATMs only give out $20s). It’s a city where you can forget about personal space, and a parking spot is wherever you leave your car. It’s a city where on New Year’s Day, men dress as scantily-clad women, walk into the middle of the street, and stop traffic until you pay a ‘toll’. The list could go on.
And while it took some time, I adjusted. I got used to the quirks of Quito, small talk in Spanish, and the ins and outs of how business is conducted here. As I was learning the business customs of Ecuador, I was also taking on more client engagement responsibilities, even leading in-person meetings on my own. It was a lot to pick up at once, but it helped me become more adaptable. You are never going to know all the answers going into something, but I was surprised by how much I had learned by the time it was over.
Getting used to any type of full-time job is tough. While I’ve adjusted since college, I still see the difficulty in work-life balance. (Shout out to any parents reading this, I don’t know how you do it). It took me some time to get out of the work, eat, sleep cycle that many recent-grads go through. There are several activities I found in Boston that helped me break that boring cycle, including a weekly night to see friends, exercise routines, and a part-time gig as a trivia host. Whatever hobbies you enjoy, I highly recommend dedicating time to learning something new. In Quito, this new skill was Spanish. Taking an hour long class at 7:30am every morning wasn’t easy. There were plenty of mornings when I woke up and the last thing I wanted to do was go to a class…and then start my work day.
Regardless, (sort of) learning Spanish was absolutely worth the effort. It allowed me to communicate and function in Quito, of course, but I also believe that keeping your brain active and taking in new information has secondary benefits. I was more confident at work, took more chances, and felt like I could handle more in general. It doesn’t have to be a new language, it could be an instrument, writing or Chess. From my experience, there will be times you don’t want to practice, but there won’t be times you regret it.
Keep Pushing Boundaries
Lastly, I learned that if I feel too comfortable, it might be time for a change. Did I have concerns after responding to the email asking if anyone wanted to move to Ecuador for six months? After 2 years in Boston, I felt established there, with my friends, girlfriend and job. Was I willing to give up my comfort zone in exchange for a city where I barely knew enough of the language to order lunch? Guess so.
I believe that just like learning and adapting, pushing your boundaries can help you evolve for the better. In both my personal and professional life, I feel like this is the furthest I have ever pushed myself, and I have grown tremendously as a result.
While I will always look back on this time in Quito fondly, I want to keep pushing myself. No matter what, I know the past 6 months will help me remember all of the benefits that come from new experiences and challenges.