Following the Fellows


By Shelby Cutter

As I write this, I have nine days remaining in Estero de Platano, a small fishing village on the northern coast of Ecuador. My freshman year at Union was the first year of the Minerva Fellows program, and since then I had not-so-secretly wanted to be a Fellow. So when I was selected last February, I was on cloud nine. But the waiting period between finding out and actually going is about five months so I put it out of my mind and enjoyed my last year in college. I think I can honestly say my senior year was the happiest I have ever been. In July I planned a big goodbye party so that I could see all my friends before I set off on my nine month adventure. Boy, did I cry. Leaving was bittersweet. I cried sad tears to leave my friends and family
and nervous tears about the unknown road ahead. Nine months later, in nine days, the waterworks will come again.  In these nine months I have:
  • Lived with six families and accumulated 25 brothers and sisters
  • Learned how to catch octopus, which is now my favorite food. Who would have thought?
  • Gone through eight pairs of sunglasses
  • Not eaten one sandwich or salad
  • Mastered sleeping on overnight buses with salsa music and a movie blasting
  • Built a playground
  • Become an experienced salsa, bachata, marimba and merengue dancer
  • Determined that living without hot water really is okay
  • Had a worm wedged in my toe
  • Become an instructor of public speaking, sexual health, English and literature
  • Attempted to surf
  • Drank only the national beers, Pilsner and Club Verde
  • Worked in the jungle every week
  • Coined “hammocking”as an adjective
It’s astounding how much one experience can change you and open your eyes to a whole side of yourself you didn’t know existed. Poet J. Pelit Senn once said, “Happiness is where we find it, but rarely where we seek it.” I never thought in my wildest dreams that here in Estero I would find myself living with the same happiness level that I had during my senior year. Two polar opposite worlds, gave me the same feelings of joy and contentment. Lesson learned…never pass up an opportunity to have a new experience because you are worried that you won’t find yourself as happy as you were before. Because if there’s one thing that I’ve learned, it’s that happiness really does come to you where you least expect it.


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