Krista Helsel

International Experience Country:
Cohort Year:
Home Institution:

University of Pittsburgh | Greensburg

Heinz Programming Area:
International Experience Summary:

This experience was the most liberating and independent event of my life.  Once the group of eleven students and three professors arrived at our destination of Cuenca, Ecuador, we were left individually for our host families to pick us up, and we were practically on our own from then on.  We had our host families and could still call or e-mail professors, but for daily communication, gaining access to resources in a foreign tongue, etc, was all completed independently.  I had to completely learn a brand new city and way of life, and I learned a path to walk from my house to the city, how to give directions to a taxi driver, how to communicate exactly what you are trying to say when conducting interviews and so much more.  I have never felt more independent in my life.  If I needed something, I was unable to simply ask my mom—she was thousands of miles away.  I had to determine how to convey my emotions and my dilemma to my host mother (who did become a real mother to me), and we would seek a solution together.  After having returned from this experience, I honestly am fearless.  I was outgoing to begin with, but now, I have nothing stopping me.  When one can talk to complete strangers in the street in a different language and obtain the information that you need, one realizes that anything else is really quite simple.