- Where did you go and what was your experience like?
I went to Estero de Platano, Ecuador and I had the most amazing experience there. I went with another Fellow, Gerardo, and we worked a lot with the people in the community, with a strong focus on the children. Every day I was learning new things, immersing myself in the culture entirely, and being challenged like I never had before. Even during the rough points and the lows, I was still so happy and grateful to be there. It was honestly a once in a lifetime experience.
- What was your fondest memory of your time as a Minerva Fellow?
I don’t know if my fondest memory could be summed up, as I was constantly making great memories. However, a conversation I had with my six year old friend Eimi sticks out. Eimi comes from a pretty “traditional” family in Estero–her mother had her as a teenager and the women in the family were pretty much expected to cook, clean, wash clothes, and take care of the children (normal expectations of women there). Once I was talking to Eimi, and I asked her if she ever thought about what she wanted to be when she grew up. She told me she wanted to be a doctor, and then told me her nine year old sister Lexi wanted to be a teacher. Although I knew these two little girls were being raised in a great home (I lived there for 4 months), I was nonetheless out right surprised to hear these career aspirations, and went on to tell Eimi how important it was that she keep studying hard and go to high school and college and with that, she could definitely become a doctor. I think that’s a conversation that will stick with me for the rest of my life, and definitely counts as one of my fondest moments of my time in Estero.
- What did you do during your time? What does the fellowship entail?
Gerardo and I focused a lot on community building and teaching. I taught in the elementary school three times a week, held library hours for the children to do homework and draw, and helped enhance the community aesthetically by painting the library, church, and bus stop, and by helping to do town and beach clean ups. Through all of this, I got very close with the people in town, and especially with the children with whom I would work and play. In addition, Gerardo and I worked with eight scholarship students who were receiving scholarships for high school through a foundation in Quito. We would work with these students to make sure they were maintaining good grades and fulfilling their roles as leaders in the community.
- How has the trip changed you?
For me, it is hard to sum up how my time in Estero changed me. I could easily say I got a different perspective on life, as they live in a relaxed day-to-day manner. I learned the importance of personal relationships in a way I don’t think I had ever been exposed to-every day, people were helping each other out and sharing anything they had. I had the opportunity to meet the most amazing, generous, funny, and accepting people and Estero will always be a home to me. However, I think the biggest way my time in Estero changed or impacted me was by giving me guidance into what type of law I want to pursue–immigration law. I think I can most effectively use my experience in Estero and Ecuador by helping people, especially from Spanish-speaking countries, who want to come to the United States, or are already living here. I already knew I wanted to be a lawyer who could help people, and my time as a Minerva Fellow has showed me how I could do that.