The first day of my Ecuadorian excursion began with a bang (literally) as my roommate, Hannah, pounded on my locked bedroom door. Exhausted (from staying up till 4 am packing/watching Gossip Girl on Netflix) I looked at my phone. It was 7 am! Our flight from Nashville, which is about an hour from Bowling Green, left at 9:45! What a horribly inconvient time for my iPhone alarm clock to decide to be dysfunctional. I jumped out of bed, threw on my outfit that I had laid out the night before, and opened my door to face not only my furious roommate, but two of the professors who were leading the trip that decided to carpool with Hannah. What an awesome first impression. To my relief, everyone found my oversleeping incident humerous and we made our way to Nashville. I am NOT, I repeat NOT, a morning person so starting the day off in such a frantic frenzy left me a very unhappy camper in the backseat.
Once we arrived at the airport, we parked, caught a trolley, checked in, and by some act of God boarded our plane just in the nick of time. Once on the plane, I finally took a deep breath and my mood lifted. We were on the way to Ecuador!
Now would be a good time to give a little background about myself. I am a junior Biology major/Chemistry minor with a pre-dental concentration at Western Kentucky University. I apply for dental school June of this year. This is actually my second time abroad in Ecuador with the same group led by Dr. David Coffey and Dr. Kristie Guffey, both professors at WKU. The class we recieved credit for was an upper level honors agriculture class (AGRI 375).
I initially stumbled upon this opportunity to study abroad one day while walking to class with Hannah. She was blabbering about some trip that Dr. Guffey told her about in class. To be honest, I heard the words “agriculture” and may or may not have tuned her out. Agriculture was out of my rhelm of understanding and interest, at the time. The big man upstairs had a different plan for me, though, and used Hannah as his messenger. Realizing my lack of interest, she produced the trip itenerary from her back pocket. Slightly irritated, I looked over it just to appease her. As I flipped through the pages, my eyes caught a glimpse of the sentance that will forever change my life:
“While in Ecuador, the service component of our trip will be applying dental varnish in orphanges and public schools. This activity will be led by Dr. Rankin Skinner.”
The very next day, and the last possible day to apply to study abroad for winter 2012, I had a plane ticket with my name on it to Quito, Ecuador. You must realize, I come from a very traditional, middle class family. The farthest South we have travelled is Disney World. When I called my mother and awkwardly uttered, “uhm, so I´m going to Ecuador in five weeks”, it did not go over too well. Immediatley, the first question arised:How in the world are we going to afford this? In my defense, I told mom about the numerous scholarships that WKU offers to students studying abroad. I applied for all of them and in the end, over half of my trip was funded. Checked that one off. The next question: How are you going to get a passport? Luckily, my uncle is a postmaster and hooked his niece up with one in about two and a half weeks. Check. Finally question three: Isn´t South America dangerous? This one took a little more effort to defend. Yes, there are parts of South America that are dangerous and that twenty-year-old American females who do not speak a lick of Spanish should not frolick around. After speaking with Dr. Guffey, she informed me that this was her thirteenth trip and Dr. Coffey had been over twenty-five times and every place we were visiting was safe. Needless to say, they know their stuff. With number three checked off, mom reluctantly agreed, I went to work saving money and preparing for the most amazing experience of my life. Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined visting South America once, let alone twice.
All of the events previously mentioned led me to where I am now, two flights later, sitting in my room at Hotel Embassay in Quito, Ecuador for the second time. I could not pass up an opportunity to return to the place that solidified my life long passion for dentistry; the place where I experienced first hand how it felt to give a child a gift of a healthier smile. That feeling is the one I want have every day of my life when I leave work as a dentist.
I cannot wait to see what this adventure has in store! 🙂