January 6th, 2015 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by
I’ve officially been in the United States for two days now, and all I can say is MAJOR CULTURE SHOCK! After being in Mexico for nearly 7 months, I had gotten used to speaking only Spanish, scrambling for Wifi, and wearing warm weather clothing. I arrived with two suitcases on Saturday, neither of which contained a winter coat that is essential for this Chicago weather. My belongings are still in storage and won’t be arriving until later this week, but luckily I have friends who have let me borrow a coat, a pillow, and blankets so I won’t freeze during the night.
Once I arrived, I checked in with my parents and my family members in Mexico to let them know I was safe and sound. A friend picked me up at Chicago Midway and I stayed at her house on Saturday. On Sunday, we both came back and got settled at school.
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November 24th, 2014 in College Study Abroad, First Generation Scholars | No Comments by
Well, my time in Mérida is unfortunately coming to a close. As I reflect on the past few months here, I can’t even begin to explain how thrilled I have been to explore this side of Mexico. I got the opportunity to travel, to meet and take classes with local students, and meet people with whom I became great friends. I’ve mentioned this before, but when I was younger we only travelled to Mexico State to visit family members. Our reasoning was always that, if we were going to travel to the country, we might as well take advantage of every moment and spend it with our family. It just didn’t feel right to be in the country and bypass seeing them. I’m glad that I have been exposed to some other realities and excited to share them with my family.
There are a couple of things I’ve learned about Merida and being in Mexico. Some of these have to do with being Latina and others are just some general knowledge I’ve picked up along the way. Hopefully these bits of advice can come in handy to future study abroad students.
- Learn to use public transportation
- Getting around the city is actually quite simple, but the earlier you learn how to take the buses, the easier your time will be! Sometimes I would avoid going places because I didn’t want to figure out how to get there, and now I regret not having been so adventurous. You’re only here for a few months, so enjoy all the time here!
- Be patient
- It really helped me that there were Latinas in the group who understood some of my experiences. Sometimes you will have experiences, and will want to share them with someone. If you’re the only one with your particular background in your group, your fellow study abroad members won’t always understand you. Be patient. It might require more explaining, but know that even your presence here is a step towards getting more minority students to study abroad.
- Prepare your answers
- Where are you from? This was always the hardest question for me to answer. I never wanted to give a long-winded answer, so I would just say I went to school in Chicago. Then, people would ask why I spoke Spanish so well. I then had to explain that my parents are Mexican and that I speak Spanish at home. I grew up in Nebraska, and a lot of people generally don’t know where that is, so often times I just had to say that it’s a state in the middle of the U.S. People have the impression I still don’t always know how to respond to this question, but it’s best to be prepared for when it comes.
- If you’re feeling lost, say so!
- There are a lot, A LOT of group projects. It’s easy to get overwhelmed, especially when you’re schedule is so different from local students. At the beginning of the semester, there are a lot of excursions on the weekends, and your group members will want to meet to work on stuff during that time. Communicate your schedule with them. Let them know that you want to do the work, but that it might have to be on your own time. If you don’t say anything, they will just think you are uninterested or don’t care about the project.
I hope these bits of advice are helpful. The semester is winding down, but there’s still a lot of schoolwork that needs to get done! I will definitely miss my host family, but I’m also excited to spend the holidays with the rest of my family here in Mexico.
October 28th, 2014 in College Study Abroad, First Generation Scholars | No Comments by
I chose to study abroad in Mexico for a number of reasons. The first was that I wanted to spend some time in the country from which my parents immigrated. Though I still have strong ties in Mexico and most of my extended family lives here, I had never spent more than a month at a time in the country. I wanted to explore the scenery and also take a break from hearing English everywhere.
In addition, I am hoping to move to Mexico after I graduate from college. Ideally, I would like to live in Mexico City. The city is approximately two and a half hours away from where my family resides, and I would still be able to visit them quite frequently. Also, I’d like to work in the field of media and journalism, and I see that there are more opportunities for that in a larger city. I am still trying to reconcile my decision of living in a city with the option of living in Ixtapan de la Sal where my family lives. That is a small city that I absolutely love. It has a beautiful climate and it’s small enough where people know each other but one can still meet new faces daily.
I am looking to plant an internship with a Spanish-language news station this coming summer. It would be a dream to intern with Univision as it is the top Spanish-language television channel in the United States. I have always wanted to use my native language in my career, and if I can use it to communicate with a Spanish-speaking audience, that would be a dream.
I still haven’t decided if I want to pursue a Master’s degree right out of college or wait a year or two before going back to school. As of now, I just want to move to Mexico straight out of college, but I find that it might be harder for me to move back for a graduate degree if that is what I decide.
I still have some convincing to do if I want to move to Mexico, though. My parents still worry about safety and the risks associated with living here, especially in the central and northern regions of the country. However, I hope that in time I can convince them and that they will be at ease with my decision.
October 23rd, 2014 in College Study Abroad, First Generation Scholars | No Comments by
I’m just about half way through with this semester, and I’ve sure been learning loads at school and from my fellow study abroad peers. There are nine of us in the program, and I’ve made friends with all of them, but I’ve made one who I would consider a great friend. She and I have similar backgrounds. Her parents are both Mexican and she was born and raised in the U.S. We share the same taste in Mexican music and dance. We understand each other’s lingo and each other’s references. Though I can say I get along with the other members of the group, it’s always easier when someone understands your upbringing because it makes it so much easier to relate.
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October 1st, 2014 in College Study Abroad, First Generation Scholars | No Comments by
I’ve been in Merida for a month and a half now, and I can’t believe the heat is just now becoming bearable! I’m usually all about summer, but I have to say, I kind of miss the Chicago cold. Sometimes all I want is a little wind!
Since I go to school about eight hours away from my home in Nebraska, I am used to not seeing my parents for extended periods of time, but it’s nice that I have some distant relatives in the Chicago area who I can visit on the weekends. I’ve been in Mexico for more than three months now, and I am glad that my parents were able to come visit me in July. I had not seen them since Spring break, and I sure missed being around them. My sister, who lives in Kansas, was also able to come, and I enjoyed spending time with her too.
Being in Merida, I am in frequent contact with my parents but not as much as I am when I am at school in Chicago. However, I was more in contact with them when I was in the State of Mexico than now! This is because they were much more concerned with safety when I was there than here. Merida and Yucatan in general are extremely safe and low in crime. Mexico is stereotyped as unsafe for a lot of reasons, but the central and northern parts of Mexico are often stereotyped as the worst places to travel. My parents realize that Merida is safe, and they know they don’t have to worry as much.
I’m also in touch with my sister and my close friends from home. Two of them are high school friends and two of them are from college, but I talk with all of them regularly. I tell them just about every day some of the things that I experience here.
Today I got my identification card so that I can vote here in Mexico, and I am very excited. I finally have some ways to prove I am Mexican when people try to tell me otherwise! My parents and my siblings like to make fun of me as I was the only one who was born in the US, so I got my Mexican birth certificate and passport prior to coming to Mexico so that I could finally fit in. Well, alright, I did it for more than just that, but that’s a plus!
My host family has been very kind and attentive and they were super helpful when my parents called this past weekend worried because I had not told them that I was going to be on an excursion with no phone or internet access. They kindly let them know I was gone, but that I was in good hands. My dad told my host mom to give me un “jalón de orejas” or “pull my ears” which is a common way of getting kids to behave.
Well, I’m off to Skype some friends for now, so hasta luego!
September 24th, 2014 in College Study Abroad, First Generation Scholars | No Comments by
I can’t believe I have been in Merida for more than one month already! I’m still acclimating to the heat, and it’s almost midterm time!
Much has happened since I’ve been here, but I’d like to share a little bit about my host family. I am staying with a family of three: a mother, and her son and daughter. They are both around my age, one being 19 and the other 21. One of them has just graduated college and the other just began his sophomore year. All three of them are extremely nice and have been super helpful in helping me get to know the city. I am so thankful that I got placed with this family. They are a great fit, especially because they are hilarious, and I love to laugh!
As far as academics (because that’s why I am here!), I have to say that I am still getting used to how Mexican universities operate. I learned that public universities are held in higher esteem than private ones, and that is a lot different compared to the United States where private universities seem to be more respected. Also, the course load is not heavy, there are A LOT of group projects, and I think that reflects a collaborative student body and society. I’m not used to having so many group projects; I don’t mind them, but it has been a challenge to work in teams as I go on a lot of excursions on the weekends and have class in the late afternoon when my teams usually tend to meet. I’ve had to work around this, but I’ve had to give up some independence as well.
Since I’ve been here, we’ve visited many archaeological sites including Mayan ruins, “cenotes”, caves, and more. My second weekend here, we went to a cave on an extreme adventure and had to navigate it by going through some very small spaces and wearing a flashlight. I ended up covered in mud! We’ve also visited the beach in Holbox (a beautiful island) and we went o Playa del Carmen for Independence Day. I have to say, Playa has been my favorite trip so far! It is beautiful, and there are lots of places to go shopping!
This weekend we will be visiting a small community called Yaxunah to learn a little more about the culture and the people of Yucatán and how they live. Then in late October we will be traveling to Chiapas for Day of the Dead, which I am ecstatic about!
I can’t wait to keep learning about Yucatan. There are some breathtaking places here, and I love that I am getting to know a different area of Mexico that I had ever explored.
August 14th, 2014 in College Study Abroad, First Generation Scholars | No Comments by
Tomorrow I leave for Mérida, Yucatán, and I have to say I am getting a bit nervous. I have spent my entire summer in the State of Mexico doing a variety of things. For about a month, I volunteered at a homeless shelter for young girls in Toluca, Mexico. My tasks consisted of teaching English and Math to middle school girls. When I first arrived, I was under the impression that I would be assisting the teacher with the class, but was surprised to learn that I would actually be teaching the class for a month. I was unprepared for the first day, so I quickly came up with an English vocabulary game. Some of the girls had prior experience with English and others did not, so I had to find a happy medium for them all to learn at the same pace. Additionally, I taught Math to the girls. They were also at different levels of learning, so I tried to make the class applicable to all the girls by starting off with adding and subtracting fractions.
The girls were patient with me as I had never taught these subjects before, but I grew closer to them through the time we spent together outside of class. A few of them would stay after class to tell me about their lives and some of the troubles they were going through. In the end, I think I learned more from them than they did from me.
After I finished volunteering at the shelter, I came to Ixtapan de la Sal, Mexico which is about 40 minutes from Toluca. Most of my extended family lives here, and I spent the rest of my summer with them. My parents and my sister also came to visit for two weeks. We had quite a few family gatherings, and we even had a chance to skype with my brother who is currently in Japan. My grandmother, who is 91, got to see him and talk to him, and I could tell by the smile on her face that she was happy.
I have been staying with my aunt, my dad’s sister, during my stay here. She lives in a small town outside of Ixtapan, and we have lots of late night talks over coffee and bread. I’ll sure miss those during my time in Mérida, but I will be back in December for the holidays, so I look forward to coming back.
Yesterday I spoke with the family I will be staying with in Yucatán, and they sounded friendly, so I am excited to meet them. They’ll be picking me up at the airport where I’ll arrive in the afternoon. I’m sure I will have lots to share once I arrive in Mérida, but this is it for now.