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After the return

Time May 19th, 2016 in 2016 Spring, College Study Abroad, First Generation Scholars, Mexico | No Comments by

Wow, everything happened so fast! One day I was in Mexico and the next I was walking across the stage for my graduation in North Carolina. I had one day between my return date and my graduation, so in that one day I had to do all the preparations for my graduation. Rushing to get everything done, I barely had time to let it sink in that I wasn’t in Mexico anymore. I guess it was good for the initial return to have something to focus on, so as not to dwell on the fact I just left so many incredible friends behind in Mexico. My family was waiting for me at the airport and embraced me with strong hugs as if they never would let me go again, in the physical sense and the metaphorical if ever I wanted to leave the country again. It was good to see them again, and they helped me run around preparing for my graduation. Now that that’s all over and I am officially on summer break, all the memories from last semester come creeping back. Everyone wants to know about my semester and the more I tell these stories, the more I want to go back. Luckily I do still have contact with my friends, I can Whatsapp them from my US number, I had to tell them to change my contact number beforehand though. Now I sometimes just sit in my room, thinking about all that I did while abroad, and it’s hard to think that I will merely have to continue on and do my Master’s this year. It will be the completion of my studies, so afterward I could potentially return to live in Mexico for two years, but having to go back to how things used to be is so hard when you’re thinking about swimming with sea turtles and visiting tons of cenotes.

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Preparing to return home

Time May 19th, 2016 in 2016 Spring, College Study Abroad, First Generation Scholars, Mexico | No Comments by

If there’s one thing I know about goodbyes, it’s that they’re so much harder when you don’t know when you’ll be seeing these people again. I had no qualms heading off to Mexico and leaving my family behind, because I knew I would see them again. This time, spending the last week trying to organize times to say goodbye, possibly forever, to some amazing people you have gotten to know over the past few months is heartbreaking. The phrase I keep repeating is “I don’t want to go!” I love the environment here and the people, I feel like I truly fit in, to an extent. Obviously I will always be a foreigner here, but my friends and adopted family make me feel right at home. I know I will miss the constant Spanish, I don’t have a way of practicing back home. Hopefully I will keep in contact with some friends and have a way of brushing up on my Spanish a bit. As far as going home, I look forward to seeing my family, but I could definitely go for just a visit and then come back to Mexico. I believe this semester has helped me open up to a whole new side of me that I never knew existed. The side that is daring, will take risks, will step out of her comfort zone, and will experience so many incredible things because of it. To say I will miss Mexico is an understatement. I fully believe I could return to live here for a couple years, but who knows what the future holds! Right now I need to focus on getting back for my graduation and then focusing on my Master’s program in the year to come, once I get out of school I can worry about such things as to the location of where I will live when not living with my parents.

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Advice to other first generation college students

Time April 20th, 2016 in 2016 Spring, College Study Abroad, First Generation Scholars, Mexico | No Comments by

To all the other first generation college students out there, I feel you. I know what it’s like to enter into a world of academic rigor never before experienced by someone in the family and that it can be difficult to find your way through it all. The wonderful thing about being a first generation college student is that we all are capable of venturing out on our own and making things happen. It takes a special type of person to break the routine set forth by all your predecessors and embark on a journey completely different. That’s what I want to focus on: that ability to step out and go against the grain. Once you know that you have said capability, you can direct this characteristic toward so many different avenues in life. For example, I had never branched out and gone on a vacation all by myself before, but knowing that I had filled out billions of forms, attended millions of interviews, and visited thousands of offices for various documentation reasons just to be accepted into my University (okay, there’s a bit of exaggeration there but you get my point) I knew I could handle making reservations and finding public transportation to get me where I needed to go. Beforehand I had always just gone on vacation and let my parents handle the logistics and thought it all far too complicated. Knowing that I have been the sole person to help myself through the messy complicated process of college has helped me realized that I can do much more than be a first generation college student, I can be an independent traveler, I can be an entrepreneur, I can be a starving artist, I can be what I wish because I know that the only one who can make things happen and follow through with my dreams is my own self. My advice to you would be, figure out what you want to do, above and beyond survive college, and use all the resources you have available to actualize your dreams. You can do it, because you’ve already done it.

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Get out of your comfort zone!

Time April 4th, 2016 in 2016 Spring, College Study Abroad, First Generation Scholars, Mexico | No Comments by

I recently have returned back to Mérida after a two decently long trips during spring break. Fortunately here they give us two weeks of a break instead of one, which allows us to have time to explore a bit more of México. I had planned a trip to an island called Isla Holbox, where I was going to stay in outdoor hammocks for three nights in a quaint little hostel. One of the other students in my group was going to go with me, so we met up at the bus station and waited for the adventure to start. Once the bus arrived we got one and the bus driver informed us that they had accidentally over sold the bus and there weren’t enough seats for everyone, so we would have to travel standing up with all of our luggage. After about ten minutes my travel buddy decided he wasn’t comfortable with the trip and that it wasn’t fair we had to stand up when we paid for seats, so he got off the bus and went back to Mérida but I continued on because I had already paid for the reservations and the bus tickets and didn’t want to lose that investment. On the bus a man got up from his seat and moved over to where his wife and daughter were sitting and the couple held their daughter in their laps to give me a seat, I was very thankful for such a kind gesture.

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Adjusting to a new educational landscape

Time March 16th, 2016 in 2016 Spring, College Study Abroad, First Generation Scholars, Mexico | No Comments by

The transition from the academic schedule in my university to the system in place here was quite interesting. In the US there are set dates for exams and homeworks get returned within a timely manner with grades, but here for the first month I had not received a single grade nor had I taken any form of an exam. I kept going to class, participating, and doing all that was expected work-wise but had no earthly idea if I was doing well or flunking. It wasn’t until the mid-semester mark that I had two exams and some projects due, and a while after that is when I got a general grade for the class. All my professors assured me I was doing fine, but I didn’t know what “fine” constituted. They told me I am doing really well, especially in comparison to the students from the university, but that still leaves some gray area. I rather like the laid-back atmosphere though. I have always had stressful semesters where I would become so involved in my school work that I would forget what was going on right around me. Thankfully that hasn’t been the case here or else I wouldn’t be able to explore and enjoy what México has to offer. It was a bit difficult at first figuring out where the classes were and how to take the bus to and from each campus (I attend two universities here.) IFSA was great about showing us the ropes at the UADY campus, but I was up a creek without a paddle when it came to Modelo. I don’t know if it’s because not many students were taking classes at the Modelo campus or because IFSA doesn’t have the same history as with UADY, but I felt thrust into a new situation and like it was expected I do it all alone. I had no classes with my fellow IFSA people and so I was scrambling to even get to the campus, then running around trying to figure out where I needed to be and when, but eventually all things worked out and I fell into a nice routine. All things considered I’m quite proud that I made it through the transition phase and really settled into this new academic environment.

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How my study abroad experience has impacted my professional goals

Time March 16th, 2016 in 2016 Spring, College Study Abroad, First Generation Scholars, Mexico | No Comments by

I recently was informed that I have been accepted into graduate school and will be attending a Masters program for interpretation and translation. Having studied abroad, this has exponentially helped improve my Spanish speaking ability, and has expanded my vocabulary considerably. I feel as though had I not studied abroad I would not have had the opportunity to go to graduate school because I would not have a competitive understanding of the foreign language to be seen as acceptable in a program that interchanges between two languages. I am a first generation college student and have worked very hard to get where I am, there’s no doubt about that. In high school I was working away, trying to get the best grades possible, yet only thought that I might be able to attend a community college. It wasn’t until the school counselor ask to see me that that all changed. I had never spoken with her and did not know how she knew of me, but she deals with grades and guides students with questions about college. She asked me about my plans and I told her I was thinking about applying to the community college nearby, because my parents couldn’t afford anything more than a two year college. She encouraged me to apply to four-year universities, saying that someone who was third in their class most likely would receive scholarships to cover some of the cost. Through her encouragement and my dedication I was fortunate enough to get into college. Once in, it was all about finding out what I wanted to be. For the first three years I had no idea what career path I wanted to follow, which is terrifying when graduation starts creeping up. Eventually I had the revelation that I could combine my love of language and my desire to help people into a single career, where I can help people communicate and overcome a language barrier. For the first time ever I felt like I had a clear goal to pursue and I feverishly started filling out applications for graduate school. From a girl who thought it would be a stretch to go to a community college, it’s hard to believe that I have been accepted into a Masters program. On many applications I mentioned that I would be studying abroad in my final semester to improve upon my language skills, and I really think that made an impression. It shows that I was willing to go the extra mile just to get one step ahead, and I could not be more grateful for the opportunity to study here in México. It’s because of this opportunity that I will be an interpreter and translator, the dream will be realized.

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Family (Update)

Time March 16th, 2016 in 2016 Spring, College Study Abroad, First Generation Scholars, Mexico | No Comments by

Seeing as half the semester has flown by and I have remained unbelievably busy, I figured it was about time to check in. It’s funny I’m doing so here on the blog when I rarely ever talk to my family from home. I have never been one for communication. My parents often ask me why I even have a cellphone because I lose it on a daily basis, leave it laying around, forget about it completely, open texts and forget to respond, or sometimes have a half-written response and lay the phone down to go to something else. Seeing as they’re accustomed to not having regular contact with me, they knew not to expect much when I left. In the two and a half months I have been here I have sent maybe 30 text messages total to my family, all through whatsapp. I have been living the experience and fully immersing myself in the culture to the point that I haven’t really had time to miss being home. I don’t know if that’s just part of who I am, or if the knowledge that these two months passed so fast and the two that are to come will do the same, so soon I will be with my family again but I may never see the people I am with here again affects my communication. I feel as though I need to enjoy what precious moments I have here with the people I have met. My family at home seem to be doing fine and only need an occasional “Are you still alive?” response, so all in all we have a pretty good system going. I’m sure for some people communication is of the highest priority, and if that’s the case then I am certain you would make time for it. There are so many ways to keep in touch, through Skype, Whatsapp, Facebook, Facetime, texting, or calling so don’t worry if you’re someone who typically acts like a normal person and experiences some homesickness.

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Fellow Study Abroad Students

Time January 25th, 2016 in 2016 Spring, College Study Abroad, First Generation Scholars, Mexico | No Comments by

As with any organized group programs, you are put with peers that you will inevitably be spending a rather large amount of time with. I arrived to México without previously knowing anyone that would be here; the main thing is to come with an open mind and positive attitude. All of the other students were super timid and shy at first. That’s exactly how they should be feeling in a new place, with no predetermined expectations of the soon-the-be friends that were standing all around them. Obviously people fell into their cliques due to the nature of how we humans are, but the group as a whole still seems to have a cohesive aura about it. Which is good, because on excursions we have to be on a bus together for hours on end and though it may be entertaining to watch people squabble on “reality” television, it wouldn’t be pleasant with front row seats in a small metal tube. The cliques that formed happened on a variety of dimensions: how close they lived to one another, what classes they were taking, what their interests were as far as traveling in the city and so forth. Personally I’m not one for going out to fiestas at night, but there is a group that does, and does so frequently, so naturally they’re closer. I prefer to see the theatre shows, Mayan games or traditional performances put on at the heart of the city which brings me closer to some of the other people in my group. I think no matter where you are, you are apt to find a kindred spirit close by; it’s just a matter of discovering them. At first no one will be completely unreserved and be their full-fledged selves, the first part is where everyone is feeling each other out. But soon the walls of propriety come crashing down and people cut loose, and that is when you’ll settle in.

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Family

Time January 11th, 2016 in 2016 Spring, College Study Abroad, First Generation Scholars, Mexico | No Comments by

Well now that I’ve really settled into things around here (aside from classes, they have yet to start) I want to share a bit about staying in touch. The first full day I was here, I had yet to tell my family back home I made it safely. I hadn’t had a chance to buy a cell phone here and my host family had lost the wifi password. The main thing is to forewarn your parents that after touch-down it’ll be a bit before you can check in, that way they’re prepared to wait and not think something horribly wrong has happened.  Around the second day was when the wifi got sorted out and I was able to e-mail, Whatsapp (a very useful app that I suggest you download BEFORE going abroad, because you will have to verify the number with a text message) and Facebook my family back home and all was well. When at the house I have access to wifi, and also at the IFSA office. I have also been told that I will have wifi at the schools, which means you can connect with your family back home with your smart phones at any of the main locations you’ll be, which is convenient.

You will need to have a functioning phone here though, in case of emergency, and there are a couple ways of going about getting one. First, and most expensively, you can buy an international plan through your carrier while you are abroad and keep your number. Secondly, you can buy a cheap-o flip phone and preload it with money for data, texting, and calling through a mexican phone company while studying abroad. Thirdly, most complicatedly, you can follow my lead: I had just upgraded from the iPhone 4s to the iPhone 5s for one very important reason, it has a removable SIM card. I have Verizon and nowadays their smart phones are ‘unlocked’ internationally, meaning you can use them with other carriers OUTSIDE the US, within the US they are locked so that you can’t get an upgrade and then just use the new phone with a different company.  That being said, I simply brought my iPhone 5s to Mexico, kept it on airplane mode, and took it to a cell phone booth where I bought a new SIM card. Then I simply switched out my Verizon card with the new card and BOOM, functioning phone. Now, my number did change when the card changed, but I kept all my contacts because they were already in my phone, and I could then Whatsapp my family through my new number. DO NOT for the LIFE of you… lose the SIM CARD you have from the US. It can be a HUGE hassle to sort out when you return so SAVE IT, hide it away like it’s the last bit of brownies and you don’t want to share with the rest of the family. So, basically, I suggest getting Whatsapp, buying a new SIM, and telling everyone you know how wonderful Mexico is with your new working number! You can easily reload money on the card at any store nearby, so don’t worry about getting enough data to last the whole trip. Any-who.. that’s how to keep in touch!

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Departure/Arrival: The Ups and Downs (Literally)

Time January 8th, 2016 in 2016 Spring, College Study Abroad, First Generation Scholars, Mexico | No Comments by

So, I awoke at around 4am. No big deal, the excitement kept me alert. My parents, little brother and I all left for the airport. It actually didn’t seem real, more like okay this is the next step in the process let’s go get this done. So I said my farewells and boarded the first plan. The original travel plans changed and instead of going from Greensboro to Atlanta, I was headed to Detroit. Once in Detroit all was well and I boarded the next plan to Mexico City. The descent was rough and we were shaken around quite a bit but we landed well. I had to re-check my checked baggage, but navigating that airport was SO difficult. I went through customs, was randomly selected to be searched, and after that I somehow ended up through some doors that lead me out of the security and I had to reenter (even though these doors were directly behind the security check point.) Anyway, I ambled around and finally found where I had to go, went through security AGAIN and then walked to the moon and back to find my terminal. The signs were poorly arranged but the most important thing is I eventually made it to the next flight to Mérida. After arriving in Mérida, everything went smoothly, I picked up my baggage and my host madre picked me up.

The way my flights were arranged I arrived later than the majority of the group, so the stop at the house was a stop in and then go straight to a welcome party at the IFSA-Butler office. Once there I saw a circle of friendly faces all excited and talking amongst themselves, oh and also the other students. Their host mothers know one another from years of working with IFSA, so they were quite chatty, but the wide eyed reserved folks sitting off to the side quietly were the ones that I would be spending a lot of time with. Eventually the ice was broken and we began to converse in the typical, “What’s your name? And your Major? Oh nice,” manner that comes not-so-naturally when first meeting people you’re thrown together with, but everyone in the group is quite kind, nervous, and welcoming. I look forward to getting to know each of them! Then it was late and I returned back to the house that night, I finally had the chance to unpack and then fell in the bed, almost immediately my consciousness escaped me and my body greedily absorbed the much needed rest. The following day I awoke early and my madre showed me how to use the bus system to get to the Centro, or the center of the city. Once there the IFSA group took a bus tour around the city for a couple hours and then we returned to have lunch with our respective families.

My madre gave me the password to the wifi in hopes I could finally get in touch with my parents, because it was a day after I had arrived and I still hadn’t been able to contact them. Well, the password didn’t work and the text message I sent through my madre’s phone never went through. It was then time for me to go back to the Centro for an orientation meeting that wouldn’t end until 6pm, my parents would have to wait. Once that was over I came back to the house and my padre was home from work, so I gave him my computer in hopes he could connect. Turns out the password I was given was completely right, except in being complete. The last four digits were missing but all was well. Being loving, caring parents, they had sent e-mails, Facebook messages, whatsapps and anything else you can image to reach out to me, all to which I responded and their relief was evident in their responses. So far, so good in Mérida, Mexico!

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Pre-Departure

Time December 18th, 2015 in 2015 Fall, College Study Abroad, First Generation Scholars | No Comments by

As the past semester came to a close the one thing that kept me sprinting through the finish line was the place in which I will be for my next semester, México here I come! After finishing up my major and minor, going through the laborious steps of applying for graduate school, preparing all forms necessary for study abroad, and all in one semester, I was ready for a break. I officially completed my last few courses at my home University and will be spending the last semester of my undergraduate education in the lovely city of Merida, México, only to return two days before I graduate. Talk about cutting it close, right? To say I’m elated would be an understatement.

We bought a large suitcase on cyber Monday, seeing as I did not own anything sizable to hold the necessities, and I have been slowly gathering what I will need over the course of the next four months. I am not experiencing any nerves, just sheer excitement for the impending adventure! I remember when my family “dropped me off” at college for the first time (I live only 20 minutes away from my University, so it wasn’t a huge distance from the family) but it was a liberating feeling I had never previously experienced. Before it was the day to move in my mom kept saying, “You can’t go. You’re just gonna have to stay here.” Sure enough, those comments have resurfaced, though with higher frequency than before, most likely due to the fact I’ll be in another country and not as accessible as 20 minutes down the road. I merely shrug it off and know that she loves me and deep down is supportive of my journey. I can’t wait to step off the plane and let the thick, warm air send my hair flying as I begin my adventure in the south of México.

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