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There And Back Again

Time December 16th, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Before I came back to the states, I did not understand what it meant to have a hard time re-entering the American way of life. I mean for real, I have been an American for twenty years of my life. How was spending four short months as a Mexican supposed to change everything I ever grew up knowing? I had grown up in my house with my family and in my town for twenty years. What was supposed to be different?

I did not immediately go back home when I returned to the states. I stopped by my university to take care of some business that I had before they went on break. It was great seeing my sorority, my friends, and my boyfriend. But, I feel like that was really when I realized that being back in America was hard. I wish I had heeded the words of my off campus study department. Before leaving for my study abroad, one of my off campus studies pamphlets said that a stereotype Americans face is how loud they are. When I came back to the states, this stereotype rang true. It was so hard to deal with the noise level of college students in many different situations. My sorority was off the charts at our meeting. My friends were way too loud at dinner in public. I just could not believe I was having trouble handling the noise level of kids I had just been with three months ago. Being in these large groups was relatively overwhelming as well. I could not be around them for a long periods of time.

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Thanksgiving

Time December 1st, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Two nights ago, IFSA arranged for our group and our host moms to have a Thanksgiving feast. My host mom made two turkeys, stuffing to fill both, gravy, and a fish for me to eat since I am vegetarian. Other host moms made vegetables or mashed potatoes to go along with the turkey. While many of my favorite holidays are in fall, it was easy to forget about Thanksgiving this year. I love Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas because the atmosphere and the weather are my favorite in my small little town in Ohio. The leaves changing colors, eventually falling, and waiting for the first snow fall is perhaps my favorite part of living in Ohio. The weather also adds to the atmosphere of these holidays. The leaves and snow really play off of pumpkins, hay bales, corn stalks, and Christmas lights. Fall clothing is also my favorite. Sweaters, crew necks, boots, cozy socks, and scarves are my fall must have when the weather changes. Fall has my favorite memories and sights which has been the hardest thing about living in the Yucatan for the fall semester. It has been an endless summer here with the weather moving from ninety degrees Fahrenheit to a breezy seventy. I have continued to run outside even though it is November and the first snow has already fallen in my home town. If one thing is for sure, I am excited to return back to the cozy comfort of a regular crew neck, leggings, and my Uggs.

However, this year it was very easy for me to forget that last Wednesday was Thanksgiving. I awoke like it was any other Thursday morning. I did not have class because the semester winds down early here in the Yucatan which I am very thankful for. I did not remember it was Thanksgiving until I looked at my iPod and had a ton of notifications from family and friends wishing me a happy holiday. I did not start to miss Thanksgiving festivities until a few minutes later when I was scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed and realized that I was missing the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and the National Dog Show. My parents sent me a few photos of balloons I would have loved. But, my favorite part of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is in the beginning when shows from Broadway sample songs to entice viewers to come. I have never been to New York City or Broadway, but one of these days I will. I did not realize how much I truly enjoyed Thanksgiving until I realized I didn’t have the opportunity to celebrate it here in Mexico.

Thanksgiving in my family only consists of my family. I rather enjoy my mother, dad, and sister and our little Thanksgiving meal we have together. We are all vegetarians, so our little Tofuturkeys are perfect for just the four of us. Since I have been in college, it is a nice little break before the end of the semester that I get to catch up with what is going on back at home. As my sister and I grow older, I really cherish the time we have now before our adult lives truly begin. Not being able to be home for this holiday has really made my heart hurt. However, having Thanksgiving with the host moms was lovely. We finished up our last class at IFSA and all waited for the host moms to arrive. We even got served by waiters! It was nice meeting all the host moms and chatting with them unlike the few times we have only seen them over the semester. It was a great ending to the semester, especially with the piñatas!

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In about three days, I will be returning back to the United States. While I have a lot there to enjoy when I get back, I am also a little sad to be leaving my host mom. She has really helped me improve my Spanish and truly treated me like one of her own. When I first came to Mexico, I was not sure about what kind of experience I would have. However, my host mom has truly made this a wonderful experience. Whenever I think about leaving, my stomach always churns thinking that I will soon be leaving my favorite person here in Mexico. I have vowed to return to the Yucatan in order to stay in touch with my host mom. I will miss her immensely and cannot believe I will be returning home in three short days. It is crazy how fast this experience here went. I feel like it was only yesterday and I first arrived here August 14th and had no idea what was in store for me.

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San Cristobal de las Casas

Time November 10th, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

This past weekend, we traveled to San Cristobal de las Casas in Chiapas to experience Day of the Dead and to enjoy the city. On our 12 hour drive to Chiapas, we stopped in Palenque. Palenque is another Mayan ruin that is settled within the jungle. We had a tour guide who showed us around the archaeology site. I am currently taking a Mayan archaeology class at the University. It is so fascinating to actually travel to these sites and talk about what I have been learning all semester. It also helps put pieces of the puzzle together in my head. It is one thing to read about these places, but another to be hands on with them. Palenque was beautiful and also located within the jungle which was even cooler. The tour guide said that Palenque was so well preserved because the jungle protected it for all these years until it was discovered. Palenque had been abandoned even before the arrival of the conquistadors. Hernan Cortes did not view Palenque in his life time because it was already lost to the jungle. Being in the jungle was very different then being in Merida. Merida is a sprawling city very close to the sea, but Palenque is crawling with life because it is within the “selva” or jungle. It was very humid while we toured Palenque and made me think of my parents stories about the jungles of Costa Rica.

After Palenque, we got back on the road. San Cristobal is located in the mountains and is very cold. I am from Ohio and the cold has never really been a problem. But, especially after living for 2 months in hot and sweaty Merida, I was frigid for the majority of our trip to Chiapas. While we were driving through the mountains, it reminded me of my many trips through the mountains of West Virginia. It was nice having this little piece of home while I was so far away from my home town. It has been hard to be away for so long. I also really miss fall and winter in Ohio. The leaves are so beautiful during Autumn in Ohio and the winter time is my favorite season on my beautiful campus. However, San Cristobal was a breath of fresh cold air.

I was so excited when we arrived in San Cristobal. Not only because we had been riding in a van for 8 hours, but also because the vacation was exciting. We were here to explore the city, enjoy the culture, and essentially have a break from the stressful and monotonous work of school. My favorite part of San Cristobal was all the hot chocolate that I drank day in and day out. At night, I would ask for Kahlua to be added to my hot chocolate to give it an extra sweet taste. The city of San Cristobal is full of beautiful architecture and rich history. We had the opportunity to explore many different museums and churches.

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The best part of the five days that we spent in San Cristobal was going to the small towns and cemeteries to experience day of the dead. I am fascinated with the architecture and sculptures that are located within cemeteries in the United States, so I was very excited to be traveling to the cemeteries here in Mexico. In the small towns, people were gathered around the cemeteries preparing the graves and leaving gifts for the dead. It was truly an amazing experience. I did not think that after all my studying in the United States about Dia de los Muertos that I would get to actually be in Mexico for this extraordinary day. Meanwhile, while I was enjoying day of the dead in San Cristobal, my parents arrived in Merida to experience day of the dead there. When I arrived back at Merida, my parents had so many photos, stories, and friends to share with me about their own experience.

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Chichen Itza

Time October 22nd, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

This past Sunday, my IFSA group and I visited Chichen Itza, the cenote of Yokdzonot, and Izamal. While I have been in Mexico, we have had the wonderful opportunity to visit many of the archaeological sites that the Yucatan has to offer. As a Latin American Studies minor and History major it is something else being able to see these existing pieces of history in real life. Maybe it’s the fact that these are actual pyramids or that I didn’t think they would be so large, but they are incredibly impressive. After visiting so many here, I want to visit Egypt to compare the structures of the two.

While I have been here, I attend classes at the University Autonomy of the Yucatan at the university of anthropology. I currently am in an archaeology class where we discuss and read about these pyramids. We learn about previous ideas and theories about the civilization that lived around these pyramids. We learn about the artifacts and the knowledge that we do have about the Mayans. In my Mexican Art history class we studied the murals, the ceramic pottery, and the sculptures that have been found at the archaeological sites. Being able to study here while also going on mini excursions to these pyramids has been a really great learning experience. In the states, I did learn about the pyramids as well, but we only covered them in general because we were learning about the history of Latin America and there are pyramids located in many different places around Latin America like Guatemala, Peru, and Bolivia.
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Los Venados de Merida

Time October 6th, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Last night I went to my first professional soccer game here! In the states, I usually go once or twice every summer to Columbus to see the Columbus Crew play. My family and I are really into soccer, so these trips to the capital are a lot of fun! We make a whole day of it and even stop at our favorite hot dog joint before going to the game. The game is also a ton of fun with some of the best fans in the league! Last night was definitely a reminder of what I would have gotten at home.
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Los Cenotes

Time September 29th, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Perhaps my favorite part of studying abroad in the Yucatan is the cenotes. Cenotes are natural sinkholes the result from the collapsing of limestone bedrock the exposes groundwater underneath. While I love the beach, I have to say that I think cenotes are much more beautiful. First of all, because the beach here is the Golf of Mexico, the ocean is so warm it’s like bath water! After a long humid day, I do NOT want to swim in water that also matches the warm temperature.

However, cenotes are wonderfully refreshing to swim in. The water is cool and fresh. Sometimes it is a little bit too cold, but most of the time it has been wonderfully perfect. I have swam in Lake Eerie, the Atlantic Ocean, the Pacific Ocean (off the cost of California), and other small lakes in Ohio. All of these have been completely frigid to enjoy. I like to think of myself as a water connoisseur.

I have been to three cenotes while studying abroad in the Yucatan. With my vast knowledge of water temperature, I think cenotes are probably the perfect temperature of water that I have ever swam in. Another amazing feature of cenotes is their clarity. Most of the time it is required to rinse before you enter a cenote and sun screen is not permitted, but also not needed because most of the time they are underground or in a very heavily shaded part of the forest.  The clarity of the water is incredible. You can see fresh water fish swim around the cenote or the bottom. However, the bottom is very difficult to decipher. Sometimes, the bottom is so deep that it cant even be touched without diving equipment.

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Sometimes, I am terrified when entering or swimming in a cenote. Entering a cenote can be very tricky. Stairs or ladders are what are usually used for entering. However, the stairs and ladders are usually a bit slippery or wet and a lot of care is needed while entering. Second, I am pretty good at swimming, but usually the cenotes are too deep to have places to touch. There are usually ropes strung across in the water that allow for swimmers to use for a break from swimming or treading water. Also, most cenotes have caves that surround the edges. These terrify me because there are bats that live inside the high reaches of the caverns and sometimes it’s dark in these mysterious places.However, what scares me the most is the depth. Recently, I was in one that had a depth so profound I wasn’t even able to see the bottom. In fact, the bottom can’t even be seen without diving equipment. I don’t know what kind of fish or creatures are able to live in these bodies of water, but the idea of not knowing freaks me out a lot.

Cenotes were once used as places for sacrifices by the ancient Maya. Sometimes, when divers have studied the depths of cenotes, they have found cave drawings preserved in the walls. The history is definitely something that fascinates my interest because it is incredible that these bodies of water were once used thousands of years ago. I am incredibly lucky to have this opportunity to experience something so incredibly wonderful. I cannot wait to experience more cenotes as my journey here progresses.

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Holbox Island, Home of the Whale Shark

Time September 15th, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

These past four weeks in Merida have sure seemed to fly by! It is almost crazy to believe that I have already been here for a whole month! Many of my weekends are filled with planned excursions. This up coming weekend is extra long in celebration of Mexico’s independence day. I’ll elaborate more on the excursion next week when I come back.

However, last weekend we went to Holbox island off the coast of Mexico. My IFSA-Butler group and I went with other students of the Merida area on a five hour bus ride to the coast. We arrived at the coast at 7:00 A.M. to take a boat to the island. When we arrived, we went to the hotels and then split off into groups to experience the wonderful activities the island. Some students could swim with whale sharks that are native the island. Like Catalina Island, Holbox is a nature preserve. Other students went on a boat tour of three other neighboring island. Everyone else, including me, could choose to enjoy the beach and explore the many shops the little town had to offer.

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While I did not care for the sand roads because they were very dirty for my shoes, I loved the white sandy beach. I’m still getting used to the warmth that the Golf of Mexico has to offer because I’ve only ever swam in the freezing Great Lakes, the Pacific ocean, and the Atlantic ocean. I’m not sure if I like the warmth or if I miss cooling off during a hot day. However, the island did offer a little reprieve from the intense humidity in Merida.

The beach and the sand was definitely my favorite part of Holbox. The shoreline is very shallow for a very long time, and at night when we had our bonfire, I was able to walk out on the shallow sandy bottom because of low tide. Usually, I absolutely hate having sand stick to me, but in Holbox it was a different case. Not that it could be avoided. It was in the shower, the floor, the bed, our skin, clothes, and bags. But, the softness and pureness seemed to make up for dirty feeling I usually associate with sand after a day at the beach.

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Every excursion I’ve gone on has been a wonderful experience. I find myself anticipating the weekends because not only do I get to meet new people, but I also get to experience things I would never have in Ohio. Hopefully, next week I will have more to write about my experience here and more photos to share.

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Diary of a Picky Eater

Time August 25th, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

What a week it has been! I have safely arrived in Merida, Mexico and my journey abroad has officially begun! Every day is a new adventure in this beautiful city. However, the food is even more an adventure. Before I left, my mom was worried that I would not be able to eat anything in Merida. My family and I have been vegetarian since I was three years old. On top of that, I am the pickiest eater alive. Before coming here, I hated quesadillas, a lot of vegetables, and trying things was usually out of the question. I would jokingly say, “I’m a visual eater.”  My mom was scared that not only I would die of malnutrition here, but also embarrass her in front of my host mom. I can’t tell you how many times she said to me before I left.

However, the food here has been wonderful! In the mornings, before I go to class at the university, my host mom gives me cut up fruit with cereal or a waffle. Papaya has been one of my favorite fruits to have in the morning because of its usual taste. Lunch and dinner are a completely different story. In the states, I usually don’t wake up for breakfast, but here I have to. Lunch isn’t ready until about 2 pm! I’ve been trying my hardest to shift to this schedule, because most of the time I don’t return home from the university till 2 pm anyways.

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Lunch in Merida

 

As a vegetarian, I do eat fish for protein. My host mom is a great cook, so I have literally been in love with every single thing she has made me to eat. I especially look forward to lunch because the fish is so great! Soup is also a regular at lunch despite the humidity. I’m still getting used to how hot it is here!  Dinner is also not served until around 7:30-8:00 pm. While lunch is my biggest meal of the day,  dinner looks a little bit more like breakfast. Usually, I ask for yogurt and apples which has been my absolute favorite meal here. In the states, I absolutely hated quesadillas. I refused to eat any, even though they are a popular late night meal for students at my university after late night studying. However, my taste buds have done a complete 180 here in Merida. I could not ask for a better cook as a host mom. It’s great that I can already notice some growth in my character and I’ve only been abroad for a week! I’m also hoping to lose a few pounds after the freshman fifteen wasn’t so kind to me, but that’s another story. 😛

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Dinner in Merida

 

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Greetings from Sunny California!

Time August 13th, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

For the past two weeks, I have been vacationing in the lovely city of Avalon on Catalina Island just twenty six miles off the coast of California!

Catalina Island, California

Usually, I am in Ohio with my family. However, before my study abroad, I had the opportunity to travel to Catalina Island to visit my boyfriend and relax. My boyfriend and his family are residents of the small island and invited me to visit before I traveled to Mexico on August 14, 2014. My journey abroad has technically began before I have even left the United States of America! During these two weeks, I was able to enjoy many things like jet skiing, zip lining, and boating! Catalina has a rich history and unique cultural experience that has definitely readied me for my study in Mexico. Not only have I been using my Spanish here, but the vast Hispanic culture is a great precursor to my full immersion experience.

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I am not a very experienced traveler, so before I arrived in Catalina I was feeling a lot of anxiety. What happens if my flight gets canceled? Will my flight leave on time? What if my checked bag is too heavy? Or worse; it gets lost? Needless to say, my family spent a lot of time calming me down before this initial series of flights.

However, I’m excited for Mexico! I have never been out of the country before and I want to begin polishing my language skills as quickly as possible. Usually, around this time, I am back at my home college preparing with my fellow resident life staffers for the upcoming academic year and looking forward to seeing my friends, but this year is completely different. I don’t know if it has set in yet that I am going abroad to Mexico of all places! Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that I would be going to Mexico to study for a semester. It is so wonderful to have an opportunity like this and to be able to work on my language skills.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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