Study abroad reflections – Oregon State advisor reconnects with his host family

By Teppei Hayashi, Study Abroad Advisor at Oregon State University

Do you remember what you were doing ten years ago? Many things change in a decade, and that certainly was the case with some things I saw while my wife and I were visiting Ecuador in September 2010, but other things remained the same, like the family that became my family when I lived there.

It took me ten years to revisit the country where I studied abroad as a Spanish major, but that made the homecoming even more special, especially since I was sharing the moments with my wife, who had never been there before. When I studied abroad at the Universiadad San Francisco de Quito, I lived with an Ecuadorian family for a semester, and then in an apartment with other students the second semester. It was my first time being in South America and my first time being in a Spanish-speaking country. My homestay experience provided me plenty of occasions to learn about Ecuadorian culture, and I have nothing but wonderful memories of my family.

I sent season’s greeting cards to my host family and we exchanged some e-mails sporadically, but we did not communicate that frequently after I left the country. When I informed them that my wife and I would be spending two weeks in Ecuador for vacation, they were excited to hear about our plans and told me that we would spend some time together during our visit. When I called my host parents via Skype, we didn’t even know what to say, other than somehow expressing our excitement and happiness to reunite after so many years!

At the airport in Quito, my wife and I were greeted by Marleen, the Resident Director for the exchange program I participated in, and it was somewhat unreal that I was back in Ecuador where I had spent such a memorable and special year. Seeing anything from ordinary street signs and unfinished construction sites, to the trolley line that runs across the city and finally some familiar buildings gave me the joy of homecoming on the first night.

Resident Director, Marleen, Teppei and his wife

Earlier in 2010, I had the opportunity to go to Spain with API to visit some of its program sites, and I was fortunate enough to share a very special moment with Susan, a study abroad coordinator at Viterbo University, who was reunited with her host mother after twenty-three years. Witnessing Susan’s experience made me wonder how the reunion with my family would happen, and what thoughts would run through my mind.

Going uphill via Avenida Mariana de Jesus by taxi gave me a small chuckle, as I used the exact same directions that I used to give to taxi drivers: “Hasta Hospital Metropolitano, por favor.” We got off the taxi a couple of blocks east of the hospital, and I was just excited to come home. I rang the doorbell and was greeted by the familiar voice of my host mom, Zuly. Almost everything was the same, except that their dog, who used to bark at anyone arriving at the door, was no longer there. My host father, Patricio, as well as my older host brother, Pato and his wife, Ximena, were waiting for us, and after I introduced my wife to everyone, we were ready for some serious catching up! Shortly after that, the younger host brother, Andrés, arrived. My family let me give my wife the tour of the house, so she could see where my room was, and my host parents pointed out all the updates and changes that had been made since I left. Both of my host brothers had been living there ten years ago, but they are now married and have their own apartments across the city. Both of them wanted to invite us for dinner at their respective homes, and that gave us three nights to get together during our short, two-week stay.

Teppei and his Ecuadorian host family

It is hard to describe my emotions and feelings in words, but I was so happy to be with them, sharing moments, talking about changes and challenges in Ecuador, and telling them how my life had been in the last ten years. I was also happy that my wife was finally able to meet my family and get to know them. When we returned to our hotel after each dinner, my wife agreed with me that my family members were such nice people – warm, giving, caring – and how I was so fortunate to have been placed in their home.

Teppei and a giant tortoise at the Charles Darwin Station in the Galapagos

During our short visit, we also managed to see a few faculty from the university, go on a field trip to a volcano (Cotopaxi = 19,347 ft) with my volcanology professor, have dinner with Marleen and her husband, and spend an afternoon with one of my former classmates who happened to be working for the travel agency that we used to visit the Galapagos Islands. It was two-weeks of non-stop homecoming moments for me, and I told my host family that we hope to be back in Ecuador sooner than ten years next time!

Teppei Hayashi is the Education Abroad & Internship Advisor at Oregon State University and advises study abroad students to the Americas, Spain and France as well as IE3 Global Internship students.

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  1. Teppei, this sounds like an amazing experience! It reminds me of wonderful memories with my host family and makes me want to plan a reunion!

  2. Susan Pham says

    Teppei I’m so happy you had a wonderful reunion with your host family! I remember talking about it when we were in Spain, wondering how it would go. Sounds like it couldn’t have been more perfect.
    I heard from Christie that you will be doing the France site visit. Have fun and have “just one” for me, OK?

  3. Teppei,
    Es una bonita historia.Gracias por compartirla.
    Un saludo desde Salamanca (España).

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