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Hi, I'mKelly Merchán

Advocate, Writer & Project Manager

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Time surely does fly. It is hard to believe that I have been living here in Cuenca for 5 months. In some ways I feel like I have been here for forever, in other aspects I feel like I am still so new to this life abroad.

Reflecting on my time here makes me realize just how much has changed in such a short time. How much has changed in myself and in my life. I am living a real life here now. A home, a loving relationship, friends, classes, a job, family outings. I’ve turned from tourist to another new gringa in town to a girl building a new life here. I’ve turned in my application for the Professional Visa, which means that in a month (fingers crossed), I will be a resident of Ecuador.

I’d be lying if I said it was always easy. It’s not. Anyone that has lived abroad knows that there is a learning curve, an emotional roller coaster, a new way of coming into your own.

It is also, however, the bravest I’ve ever been. I’m proud of myself. I’m happy. I’ve become less hesitant, cautious and fearful, and grown in my ability to trust time, trust others, trust myself. I am sure that I will always have more questions than answers, but I have also become more comfortable knowing that I will not always have a plan.

I found myself in the company of some pretty incredible opportunities these past months. In 5 short months I’ve been through more than I ever anticipated.

  • Graduated with my Masters from a top 10 school in the world for international service
  • Moved to a new country with no plan on an extended tourist visa
  • Got an apartment with a partner for the first time
  • Built a home and a real relationship in said apartment
  • Become part of a new, welcoming family
  • Traveled to the mountains, the coast, hiked numerous mountains with my beautiful boyfriend
  • Traveled the north of Ecuador with a soul sister to Quito, Cotopaxi, Quilotoa and Banos
  • Acquired remote work and traveled to Guatemala to implement a conference alongside the embassies of Guatemala, Nicaragua, and Honduras + traveled in Guatemala with a soul sister
  • Trained my heart out and ran a half marathon for the first time
  • Got a job running programs for a nonprofit in Cuenca
  • Started writing for an online publication in Cuenca
  • Made new friends that I truly admire
  • Tapped into the local modeling network, had my work published for the first time, and will walk in a high-profile fashion show next week
  • Applied for residency in Ecuador
  • Gained responsibilities and independence in a real life abroad

Foreigners and locals alike always ask the same first question – so how long are you here for? How long have you been here? Where are you going next? When it comes to the young expat culture there is an assumption that we are only passing by and will be moving along shortly. There is also an assumption that we actually have some sort of plan. For the backpackers traveling up and down South America, sure they may have a plan. But speaking for myself, I have no clue where I will be three months, one year, five years from now. I am certain I will be well, I am certain I will be happy wherever that may be.

Looking back I cannot believe how much has changed nor how many opportunities have come into my path. I can’t imagine what life would look like if I let myself live out the DC post-grad rat race. Giving myself a pat on the back for taking this leap and looking forward to what the future may bring.

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