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How do you express yourself in a non-stress environment? Study abroad.

Time June 22nd, 2016 in 2016 Summer, College Study Abroad, First Generation Scholars, Mexico | No Comments by

“The Warrior knows that he is free to choose his desires, and he makes these decisions with courage, detachment and sometimes, with just a touch of madness.” -Paulo Coelho

 

The day I left for Mexico, I remember how happy, yet sad, I felt.

I was happy for many reasons. I knew, at that moment, how fortunate I was to be there.

You know, deciding to study abroad isn’t a decision one should take so lightly, in my opinion. It’s a decision that must be considered in its entirety because one has to be willing to change, and experience personal development and growth. Read More »

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“It’s more expensive NOT to study abroad!”

Time June 18th, 2016 in 2016 Fall, College Study Abroad, First Generation Scholars, Mexico | No Comments by

As I reflect on this journey, I’m convinced that we all belong in a wonderful world that’s full of beauty, charm, and adventure. Being a first-generation college student isn’t easy, but today, I’m grateful more than ever for this life. Studying abroad has emphasized the importance of doing things now because sometimes “later” becomes “never.” This is what makes the journey of a first-generation college student unique. Read More »

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¡Hogar dulce hogar!

Time June 12th, 2016 in 2016 Summer, College Study Abroad, First Generation Scholars, Mexico | No Comments by

The life of a student who studies abroad is filled with unique and unforgettable memories based on my own experience so far. Personally, I’d like to consider that my background has helped me to live and appreciate a more independent lifestyle and to have a mindset deeply rooted in my values and morals.

While my parents have always supported me and my educational goals, they know that it’s perfectly fine to let me grasp opportunities and take risks in order to accomplish my dreams. Read More »

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Your Story

Time May 26th, 2016 in 2016 Summer, College Study Abroad, First Generation Scholars, Mexico | No Comments by

Allow me to introduce myself by first stating these powerful words to live by:

“Life gives you the opportunity to write, to fix, and to improve your story every day. Be wise and write a good story… your story!”

Now, let me provide to you a small glimpse into My Story:

Recall a first-time ever experience. Perhaps you remember feeling excited, frightened, terrified, and happy all at once. Perhaps not because you were ready to live in the moment. Read More »

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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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A-broad Spectrum of Variables

Time January 25th, 2016 in 2015 Fall, College Study Abroad, First Generation Scholars, Mexico | 1 Comment by

A lot of variables go into choosing the right study abroad program for you. Here are some things you should think about before studying abroad. Some things might seem obvious but taking a minute to think about them might effect the type of experience you will have.

 

Scholarships & Cost: Abroad Funding

The thing that students have to think about the most when considering study abroad is the money.

  1. I would choose a place in the world that people don’t normally visit and with a great exchange rate. There is more funding to go to places that are less typical for study abroad students. These countries tend to be in the developing world. These countries also make living expenses very affordable.
  2. Choose a program that most closely reflects your goals, your major or academic interests, or your professional goals. It easier and more authentic to write scholarship essays over these topics than to say that you just really want to run with the bulls in Spain – can I have money please?

Side note – more on finding your authentic voice: I found ways to weaved my personal story into my scholarships essays to make a convincing argument about why I choose the abroad program that I did. I’m a double major in International Relations and Sociology with a minor in Latin American Studies. The United States relationship with Mexico is extremely important in terms of the economy, trade and national security. Growing up in Texas, bordering northern Mexico makes the country and cultural connections 10X more relevant to my life. I’m Mexican American – that makes Mexico, cultural, linguistically and historically 100X more significant to my life. Understanding all of these things help me cultivate my own narrative of linguistic identity that was taken from my family through generations of assimilation. I studied in Mexico to regain a sense of cultural identity that has been white-washed from the collective memory of many Mexican-American families through ethnic oppression. Not only that, the region is of important significance to my field of study in international relations and diplomacy given the amount of trade openness we have advocated and migration patterns. Finally, in the future I hope to be a leader with great cross-cultural competence able to live and work abroad in my professional future. All of these reasons helped me tell a story about who I am and why my abroad program was important to my life. Try looking for these connections in your life, in your coursework and in how study abroad helps your future goals.

  1. Search and research scholarships. I found out about a lot of the scholarships I applied for through my study abroad advising office and at study abroad fairs. Talking to my study abroad advisor on what the application and selection process is like and how I can seem more competitive really made a difference in my essay writing. Search high and low for a lot of scholarships and research their organizations goals for funding the scholarship. This makes it easier to cultivate an essay that fits their vision and your own. Reframe these essays in your mind. You are writing to convince a panel of people you have never met to INVEST in your brainpower and potential.
  2. Budget. Get a budget sheet. Keep an excel document current of what money you have from scholarships, loans and from personal savings. Don’t get carried away by the excellent exchange rate and forget you want to eat more than Ramen Noodles when you get back to the U.S.

 

Language: English-only, full linguistic immersion or mixed?

I would recommend full foreign language immersion programs. Many students worry that they will not being able to handle it but that is exactly what pushes you out of your comfort zone. It’s a great feeling to start out the underdog in a language and see what great results you will have after so many months living abroad. Also, since IFSA programs are with other US students, you will most likely have the opportunity to speak English with them on group trips.

 

Program size: 50 or 7 students?

Summer 2015 I went on a Maymester trip through UT-Austin to Beijing, China. This program was led and taught by two UT professors and graduate students. In order to make the month in China cost-effective, there were 50+ students and faculty that went on the trip. It was an amazing experience and I got a fantastic chance to bond and meet more people from my alma mater. However, there were various challenges that arise when traveling in a large homogenous group of Americans. One of these challenges was not getting enough time or space to practice Chinese. Very few of us studied Chinese, but there was always a friend in the group who spoke better than all of us and would feel the need order dinner for everyone. It was easy to rely on him, but that didn’t leave enough time or spaces for you to practice your own Chinese. Also traveling through the Beijing subway system in a large crowd is VERY DIFFICULT.

It was very interesting comparing my Maymester in China to that of my fall semester in Merida. The Mexico program had a total of 7 students from all over the U.S. (although two were from Los Angeles and two were from Washington, D.C. – I’m seeing some need for better recruitment efforts in others parts of the nation). The small group made things more intimate – for better or worse. It was difficult to avoid people you didn’t get along with in such a small program.

 

Housing: Second Mom vs. Roommate

In Beijing, we stayed in double-occupancy dorms. It was a lot of fun and convenient to always be near someone you knew and trusted. Coming home after going out was always easier since everyone lived in the same place and there was a lot of time for bonding.

However, that program was very insular to UT students. If your goal is to learn another language – well – the best option is to live in a home stay. Ask for the most talkative host mom who loves to cook. Ask her about your opinions, stories, what growing up was like, when she got married, etc. Your host family is a wealth of knowledge. Every chat over coffee in the morning or at night is a learning experience. I left Merida with a very heavy heart when I had to leave, my host mom, Mama Rebeca. Besides my program director and a few friends, my main reason to return to Merida, would be for her. Learning about her insights and knowledge through our conversations, not only made me better at Spanish, they gave me a relationship that I will cherish forever.

 

Anxiety

I had a headache and cried after the first day of class. I didn’t know anything any of my professors were saying. Classes were two hours long each. Imagine not knowing anything that is going on for two hours. Then go to another class for two hours and not know anything there either. That was four whole hours of feeling like a total dummy and lost. However, this experience was important for me. It broke down an identity I had been building for myself all my life as the “intelligent-good-student”. I would be willing to bet it’s in 60% of all university students. We have been taught to base our self-value on the numerical evaluations you get from professors and the nods of parental approval. When your main source of validation is in this form, it’s like a shock to the system when you suddenly feel so lost in a space that you once excelled. That is a shock that not everyone can handle. I thought about my old college roommate who suffered from anxiety a lot during this trip. I wondered if she could handle the mental stress associated with being totally lost in another language or country. I would not suggest that you let it hold you back. Let me repeat. I would not suggest that your stress levels or anxiety hold you back from studying abroad. Just know you might need to mentally prepare a little more.

 

-M3

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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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Advice for First Time Travelers

Time November 9th, 2015 in 2015 Fall, College Study Abroad, First Generation Scholars, Mexico | 2 Comments by

I took my first international trip this past June when I travelled to Beijing, China with a university-led study abroad program. The actual planning for this trip started the in Fall of 2014! Currently, I’m in Merida, Mexico studying for all of Fall semester. I think most students like the idea of studying abroad but don’t always know the work that comes with that. Between application essays, scholarship deadlines, safety/security meetings, bank notices, and packing – you are tired before your trip even beings. At the end of the day, it’s all worth it. For first time travellers it’s important to remember that

 

Pack light. No really….

There is a rule that you should lay out everything you want to bring when you go abroad on your bed then only take half. I tried to do this and I still ended up paying for extra baggage fees. And you will hate extra baggage fees. You will buy things when you get there. If you have a big family and lots of friends, you will buy a lot of things when you get where you are going. Especially, if you are going to a country where the dollar is stronger than that currency. Trust me you want the extra room. The longer you stay the most you will buy.

 

Ditch the University Sweats

You will definitely have access to some type of method to wash your clothes, do don’t bring so many of them. Before you go research the climate of where you are going and perhaps fashion trends of that culture. When I went to China I realized I should have brought more summer/spring dresses and wedges. I felt like I was sticking out or under dressed when I wore workout shorts and UT t-shirt. Yes bring your university t-shirts but I would forgo the workout shorts. And only bring yoga pants that can be dressed up with a casual top and non-athletic shoes. Before Merida, I had no idea what tropical climate really meant. I just packed a lot of shorts and hoped for the best. When I got to my university I was surprised to find that a lot of the students wore blue jeans and t-shirts. However, after feeling under dressed the whole time in China, I packed all of my nice, cutesy blouses. Now I feel over dressed here. Eventually, I hope to find a balance. Pack a rain jacket. Consider it an investment in your future.

 

Learn about yourself

When you travel, you are put into situations that are out of your comfort zone. Take time to reflect on those situations or interactions and understand yourself a little better. I’m an unapologetically type-A person (work in progress on the unapologetic part). This means that since I was a child I’ve been called bossy for being comfortable in leadership positions and for wanting to plan everything in advanced. However, while traveling I learned that I’m more of a follower than I thought. I enjoyed more when others planned places to how and how we would get there. I enjoyed more going on an aimless walk rather than planning a route. I enjoyed not having a plan some days. It’s important for travellers to take a back seat sometimes and just listen to others. Travelling taught me how to navigate ambiguous situations and know that in the end everything is going to work out.

 

Tune Out while Tunning In, #NoWIFI

You’ll find in international cities or tourist cities, that there is free WIFI n restaurants, public parks or cafes. Don’t always log into the WIFI. If you are only studying abroad for a short amount of time, I would suggest not getting on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram as often as you do when you are in the U.S. Not only is social media a time suck, you can get so involved in what is going on in the lives of your friends back home rather than being invested in the country you are at in that moment. If you are looking at your screen to read a Buzzfeed article your friend posted, you are not seeing the people and place you are currently.

It’s always nice to Skype with mom or What’sApp text with your significant other when you are homesick. But don’t make it a habit. If you and your family are really close, I would suggest preparing them for a little bit of absence in communication while you are abroad. It’s the same idea as the social media piece. If you are always talking to people who are in another country, you are less focused on the people in the country you are currently in.

 

Money & Finances 

I applied to a lot of scholarships and thankfully got my study abroad trips fully funded. I would suggest you start the scholarship application process immediately after you get notified you’ve been accepted to your program. There is more money out there than you think. (Stay tuned: more on scholarships and cost in my next post.) Those scholarships helped me set a budget for my trip. SET A BUDGET. Or you will come back with know money. I have seen friends do that. Make sure to call your bank to tell them you are going abroad before you leave the United States. This will avoid getting your card declined when your card is used in another country. Look into bank fees associated with using your Debt or Credit Card abroad. I found it much easier just to open an account with Charles Schwab before leaving. They rebate you ATM fees when you are abroad and all of their services are online, making them easy and accessible.

M3

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What Yucatan Has Taught Me: Relationships

Time October 29th, 2015 in 2015 Fall, College Study Abroad, First Generation Scholars, Mexico | No Comments by

  1. To value relationship, friendships and the people in your life.

One day, in my class on the Social History of Written Culture, we were talking about letters written by popular classes. The professor asked me if I had ever written a letter. I said yes. When I was a kid I wrote letters to my grandmother on my Dad’s side who lives in Indiana and to this day I still haven’t met. One of the other U.S. girls from my program also told a similar story. My professor noted that it was interesting that we only wrote to people of the older generation, since of course letter writing was more common during their time. Then my classmate presented a golden cultural teaching moment. She said how strange it was to write a letter to your abuelo/abuela, as they probably wouldn’t read it.

In Yucatan, and Mexico in general, a letter is just words on a piece of paper. What is more important is your presence in the lives of your relatives. It would be more effective to call your grandparents or to go visit them. If you just spend time writing a letter it has less cultural significance than spending time with the person to whom the letter is addressed.

The family is an important cultural unit within Mexican society. Every Sunday, there are 15 people at my host family’s house. All of the children and grandchildren, and even a niece or two will come to eat and spend time together at my host-parents house almost without fail every weekend. More so, the family is deeply intertwined in the daily lives of my host family. One of her daughter’s is a psychologist and has her office inside her parents home where she see’s patients weekly. My host mom also takes care of her grandchildren and is very involved in the lives of her children.

As the class continued, my friend from Washington, D.C., commented that letters play a role in maintaining a familial relationship since often families in the U.S. live very far away from each other. This friend also attends a university outside of the state in which her family lives.

In that moment, based on the commentary from someone who represented Mexican culture and someone who represented mainstream white culture in the U.S., I navigated my own identity and reality as a Mexican American from Texas. I realized the legacy that my mother culture had played in my life and affected the decisions I had made. I had chosen to go to The University of Texas at Austin because it was both far enough away from home (2.5 hours between Houston, my hometown, and Austin) but also close enough to come back home easily. I wanted to be close to my family and to see my niece and nephews grow up. Since I’m the first in my family to attend university, it was a big adjustment for my mom that I was moving away from the home. And to this day, I have to deal with the small pains of guilt when I don’t go back home enough to visit them – any amount of text messages and phone conversations does not fill the void of your absence at the dinner table.

-M3

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Identity & Diversity

Time September 21st, 2015 in 2015 Fall, College Study Abroad, First Generation Scholars, Mexico | No Comments by

The first week in Merida and at Universidad de Yucatan was less than ideal. On the small end of the scale: a machine ate my credit card, the phone chip I bought didn’t work in my phone and I couldn’t return it, there was an alacran, a non-poisonous scorpion, in my room. These were only small issues compared to the social anxiety I felt during my first week in classes.

It had been a year and a half since I had taken a Spanish language class and therefore I felt (and continue to feel) behind my peers. Out of a small program of seven, there are two native speakers of Spanish, and two whom had already undertaken a study abroad in the Latin America. The two native speakers are Chicanos from the West coast and the rest of us were North American and learned Spanish only in school. Being the only Southerner, the only Latina, and the only one who identifies as a Mexican-American or Tejano, not Chicana, who is not a native speaker has felt very alienating among my peers. In Texas, a state I’m very prideful to have been raised in, identifying as a Chicano or being called a Chicano is not as readily accepted. Persons of Latin American origin who live in Texas are much more likely to identify as Latino, Hispanic, and commonly Mexican-American.

Spending time with other Latinos from around the U.S. has been a learning experience that I’m glad to have undertaken. It has confirmed something I knew to be true – that despite the fact that Latinos in the United States are often homogenized in the discourse of the media, we represent a wide variety of opinions, cultures, values, and colors.

The diversity of Latinos we see in the United States is also true of the diversity of people and cultures that exist in México. My program is hosted in the state of Yucatan in the capital of Mérida. Similar to Texas, many people from here identify as yucatecos rather than mexicanos. In 1823, the Yucatan Peninsula actually was it’s own independent republic for seven years this was actually 13 years before the Texas Declaration of Independence was signed. I find anywhere I travel I can find a way to connect the culture or history to my state. In my classes here on Mesoamerica, the culture of the Mayas, and racism in indigenous communities, I’m learning that the pre-Hispanic cultures represent an even greater among of diversity than the current post-Hispanic population has to offer.

 

-M3

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Linguistic Blow

Time September 21st, 2015 in 2015 Fall, College Study Abroad, First Generation Scholars, Mexico | 1 Comment by

After the first week of classes at the University of Yucatan, I had so much more respect for English as Second Language students and international students in the U.S. Sitting in a class for two hours and not understanding anything the professor is saying is nerve wrecking and leaves you feeling defeated.

Going into this program, I assumed that I would be judged a little harsher for being a Latina who doesn’t know how to speak Spanish. Surprisingly, the local students have not been acutely surprised or disappointed that I have less than the best Spanish speaking abilities. They are very kind and help me out when I’m missing words from my vocabulary or can’t finish a complete thought. Many of the students were speak or know a little bit of English so they are able to help here and there. They understand that you are a foreign student and need a little help.

On the contrary, I feel more self-conscious speaking among the other peers in my program group. They are much quicker to correct my mistakes and because of their greater fluency they tend to dominate conversations with local students when we spend time in a group. It can feel very exclusionary when you are just sitting there quietly and everyone else is participating in a conversation. These are all blows to your linguistic confidence. As time goes on that confidence will grow.

Having been here about a month now, I already feel like it has grown a lot. I owe a lot of my linguistic confidence to the chats over coffee I have with my host mom. She is one of the few people I feel completely secure in speaking Spanish with. She allows me to speak as I know how and express my thoughts fully. She corrects me and teaches me new words often but always after I’ve finished talking. When I speak with her I don’t feel bad about myself when she corrects me.

By this fact, I think it’s a cultural norm in the U.S. among college students, to want to be perceived as smart by your peers. Often we hear friends say that they didn’t ask a question in class because they don’t want to sounding stupid or make the wrong comment. At my home university, I’m usually the first to offer my opinion or ask questions in class. School is my source of confidence. Here at UADY I’m learning what it feels like to not be at the top of my class, among the locals or other U.S. students. Although, it has been hard thus far, a mentor of mine back home reminded me that this learning experience is challenging me more than any course could at UT.

 

-M3

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Adventures, adventures, adventures

Time March 23rd, 2015 in 2015 Spring, College Study Abroad, First Generation Scholars, Mexico | No Comments by

Hello, All!

It’s been a pretty wild ride since my last post, this post is probably gonna be all over the place. Soooo buckle your seat belts, friends!

First things first: school.

As I mentioned in my last post, the strike at UADY had really thrown everything off at first in respect to trying to figure out how we were going to take classes, trying to settle in, etc. But now (halfway through the semester…), everything finally feels normal, which makes life here so much easier. Having a daily routine is what makes Mérida feel like home for me. And now that everything has settled down, I’m really satisfied with how everything turned out. We got the chance to see a little bit about how strikes work in Latin America and get a first-hand experience of some of the social tensions in Mérida and how they are dealt with. Also, I’ve absolutely loved the opportunity to see the differences between the two universities, Universidad Autónoma de Yucatán, a public university virtually free for students, and Universidad Modelo, a private university. They are about 5 minutes away from each other driving, but they are worlds apart. The environment, the students, the professors, the classes, everything has a completely different feel to it. And it’s been awesome having the opportunity to make friends at both.

Something that has been a little bit difficult for me since I got here is that I’ve had to adjust my studying habits and my standards for my grades…DRASTICALLY. Normally in the U.S., on week days, I do nothing but go to class, go to work, go to soccer, and study study study. My parents have always instilled in me the idea that I’m blessed to be able to go to college, an opportunity they never had, and that there’s no excuse for not doing everything I can to get the best grades I can. Here, I’ve had to repeatedly remind myself that my grades here should not be as important as enjoying myself, getting to know Mexico, and having a great experience rather than locking myself up in my bedroom doing homework. Choosing to go check out some Mayan ruins or spend the day at a cenote or go out with my friends despite having a test the day after was really hard for me to do at first, but learning to make that decision has been really, really good for me. My experience here has been amazing because of it. The thing I’m scared about is going back to UT next semester and having to go back to really worrying about my grades…but we’ll worry about that when time comes hehe.

Some of the adventures I’ve gotten to experience:

-Chichén Itzá, the famous Mayan ruins

-Uxmal, some more famous Mayan ruins (absolutely beautiful) 

-Xcaret, in the Riviera Maya, where I went snorkeling and swam with dolphins

-Grutas de Calcehtok, some caverns we got to climb through (really fun, really good workout)

-Numerous cenotes, really beautiful, natural pools

-Yaxunah, a small mayan community where we stayed for a weekend with a Mayan family and did volunteer work

Unfortunately, I have ZERO pictures to share about all my experiences because my memory on my computer got erased and I lost absolutely everything :( Terrible luck.

BUT the important thing is that I got to experience it all. AND Semana Santa is coming up next week, basically “Spring Break” in Mexico, where we have two weeks off of school. Over the course of the two weeks, I’ll visit:

-Oaxaca

-Chiapas

-Tulum

-CUBA

-CUBA (it had be said twice)

-Cancun

-Holbox

I will be completely dead returning to school the Monday after, but I can’t begin to explain how excited I am.

Stay tuned for the next post where I’ll talk about my Semana Santa a ventures!

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Otra perspectiva: presenting, Leah Bakely!

Time March 13th, 2015 in 2015 Spring, College Study Abroad, LGBTQ Correspondents, Mexico | No Comments by

¡Hola a todos de Mérida ese día nublado, 12 de marzo 2015!

I cede my page to another queer voice on my program–Leah from Philadelphia/Wesleyan University. Enjoy her perspective as I continue to hone my posts on the layout of the LGBT scene in Mérida and on gender issues and observations in this city and during our experience. :)

Hmmm, where to start. I suppose with a little vignette (I just tried to spell that viñette, because my head is swarming with Spanish right now).

A few weeks ago, a friend from one of my classes asked me what my expectations of Mexico were before stepping on Mexican soil. I told her that the only expectation I had had was that I would be confronted with a very conservative, homophobic society in which discussion of sex, queerness, etc. would be entirely taboo. I joked with my friends that I would have to grow out my hair here (it’s currently short short), because no good Catholic woman would agree to cut it. Then I reasoned that maybe short hair on a female wouldn’t even connote the same thing (read: queerness) in Mexico as it does in Estados Unidos, because queerness wouldn’t even be on people’s radars in Mexico.

Boy, was I wrong. I soon realized I had let my own stereotypes of Catholicism and religious conservatism creep into my head. Short hair still connotes queerness. There is a burgeoning queer tinder scene. While there are no exclusively gay clubs, there is a bar/club that attracts a lot of queer people. Also, P.D.A. is quite the thing here, so it’s not unusual to see a queer couple holding hands or even kissing. And further, no one seems to bat an eyelash. I was even more surprised when a girl I had just met asked me if I had a boyfriend OR a girlfriend. She told me that she had actually had a girlfriend in the past and that it really wasn’t that unusual here. And in a public opinion class I’m quasi auditing, a group made a video in which they asked various people from Mérida, ranging in age from 8ish to 70ish, their opinions on various issues regarding la homosexualidad.

Still, I don’t mean to paint a rosier-than-reality picture of the situation here. Although almost everyone interviewed in the public opinion video agreed that love is love and that people should be allowed to kiss/love/make love to whomever they want (save for one older woman who, when asked if matrimonio homosexual should be legal, exclaimed with a face of disgust, “NO!”), almost all of the interviewees also agreed that queer couples should be prohibited from raising children. The students that made the video suggested that this opinion prevailed because the interviewees associated la homosexualidad exclusively with gay men and in Mexican society child-rearing is still inextricably associated with women/mothers/motherhood. The professor suggested that the opinion stemmed from a society-wide ignorance of all things homosexual. Regardless of the reason, the video gave me a bit of a reality check.

Only adding to my reality check, this week I also found out that a Mexican acquaintance can no longer host parties at his family’s house because, in October (five months ago!!!), his parents saw two girls making out at his party. The parents were disgusted and he’s been banned from having parties ever since.

But then, I am not so sure Estados Unidos is that different. Sure, I grew up in an extraordinarily liberal neighborhood with several lesbian and gay couples on my block in a city that singlehandedly makes our state go blue during election season. I go to one of the most socially liberal universities in the country where students are (unfortunately) harassed for expressing even centrist points of view. And I have purposefully surrounded myself with people who couldn’t care less about who I want to kiss. But, I think my experience with social liberalism is the exception, not the norm; there are probably thousands (millions?) of American parents who would prohibit their children from hosting parties if the parents saw two girls making out a party. There are probably even more people in the U.S. who don’t approve of queer couples raising children. It’s just that I’ve hopped from one liberal haven to another, so I probably have a skewed perception of reality.

So, I guess what I’ve concluded from my little anécdota (because I just looked up viñeta and it’s just not a word in any language. Oops.) is that there are queer people errrrrywhere/por todos lados and I shouldn’t have assumed otherwise. That being said, here in Mérida, like in the U.S., superficial markers of acceptance don’t necessarily indicate fundamental societal change. But baby steps, right?

To end on a positive note, I would also just like to reiterate:

There are queer people errrrywhere. I love it.

Hay personas queers por todos lados. Lo amo.

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Algunas cositas ricas/a few more tidbits

Time March 9th, 2015 in 2015 Spring, College Study Abroad, LGBTQ Correspondents, Mexico | No Comments by

Videos videos videooooos !

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wgAK3Z0QKk8 Nada humano nos es ajeno (from the Centro Olimpo theater piece mentioned in last post; this segment addresses child exploitation and poverty, the theme of the fundraiser)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yhTsJ3d2zBo Havan Energy Band at Mambo Café (the video that failed from a few posts ago)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KkZRNauYzuM “Ella y yo” at Romeo Santos concert! #Classicbachata

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gaTAizWUOc4 Howler monkeys at Palenque ruins

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=35rrkL9slic&feature=youtu.be Salsa en viva at Fundación Mezcalería bar downtown Mérida during my first week (way back when…!)

Over and out,

<3 Emily

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Slow n steady; halfway through/halfway in heaven

Time March 9th, 2015 in 2015 Spring, College Study Abroad, LGBTQ Correspondents, Mexico | No Comments by

Buenos días/buenas noches/buenas tardes, ¡donde estarán ustedes!

Saludos de Mérida el 26 de febrero, 2015

Fotos incluidas:

Agua Azul

Valentine’s Day in Palenque downtown

Sopa de lentejas y chorizo—choriza, vegetable, lentil stew

Clericó (mulled wine with ice and fruits) at a Trovadictos party hosted by Roberto, my dad (a group of 65-95 year old men who are musicians and “trova addicts,” a genre of Yucatecan music.

Ayotzinapa presentation

Excursion to Río Lagartos nature refuge—preciosos flamingos!

Otra vez el tiempo me ha transcurrido; pero al mismo tiempo, siento que pequeñas vidas han cabidas en poco espacio y tiempo. Hablaré de viajes—unos más largos que otros—de cosas chistosas, de observaciones, de relatos por mis compañeros estudiantiles en la Universidad Modelo.

Again, time goes scurrying past me, but simultaneously I feel that many little lifetimes have fit into so little space and time. I will speak of trips, big and small, odd things, observations, what I’ve learned from colleagues at Modelo.

¡La huelga ha terminado! The strike has ended at UADY! February 9, to be exact, I believe; I think that students, however much they were in total solidarity and support—every UADY student I talked to was attending all types of rallies to help out the no-school but yes to social learning vibe—benefit from the return to school so that it doesn’t extend so much into the summer. Teté, the woman who cleans our house twice a week, has a son in Prepa Dos, which is a high school connected to UADY, and so at that level students really got jipped for a month without class, however vacation-y it felt :)

After many attempts with Miguel to see a free event for Mérida Fest at the Centro Cultural Olimpo in the Plaza Grande, I finally arrived on time at the end of January for Nada humano nos es ajeno, a play with Argentine-Yucatecan actress Silvia Káter: according to the magazine Por Esto!, “Es un espectáculo sobre la universalidad de los derechos humanos… y de los “torcidos humanos” en el que a través de monólogos, diálogos y canciones de diversos autores exponen las más variadas emociones y situaciones.” From parodies of husband-wife relationships to the hypocrisy of the Mexican elite, the obra de teatro was a stellar two-person show of an arquitecta and male construction worker building a new visión for humanity; also a voluntary fundraiser for homeless children. One scene highlighted how the same phrase applied to men and women usually results in shorthand for puta when describing women. Ejemplos: hombre público: an admirably sociable, political man / mujer pública, puta (whore); hombre de la calle, a man who doesn’t stay at home much / mujer de la calle, puta (prostitute). This continued for approximately 15 phrases, and the actor’s continual admission that each phrase had such loaded double standards struck a chord with the audience. The final song played was Sólo le pido a Dios—very 60s-peacetime-esque: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gvyl_zdji2k

On February 4th, my Wednesday 4-hour Literatura Yucateca Moderna class cut short to attend in Modelo’s beautiful auditoriu a presentation by UADY maestría students and professors about the politics of disappearances in Tlatelalpa and Ayotzinapa, especially regarding historical precedents such as the Guerra Sucia in Guerrero during the 1960s and 70s. I am including one of the historical slides; one student, Valeria Contreras Hernández, also discussed the international nature, positive pressure, but also social tension of hashtag activism with #AyotzinapaSomosTodos or #Somos43. I was reminded of my friend Maya Reyes’ assessment of “We Are All ___” hashtags as erasing uniqueness of humanity instead of showing true empathy and respect for distinct yet connected struggles. Not everyone—and not all Ivy League students in the U.S.—is Ayotzinapa, and these students showed that there are so many more disappearances and corruptive, destructive practices occuring under the watch of the Mexican government in every Mexican state every day, yet the world focuses on 43 young students.

Sidenote time! Algunos episodios de gayness en historia mexicana: supposed nuggets of queer Mexican history (dicho por Gilberto en clase de Literatura Yucateca / as told by classmate Gilberto in my Yucatecan Lit class)

  • Maximiliano de Habsburgo: when he arrived in Veracruz, his black male servants “festejaron”/”partied” with him as male escort types
  • Siglo XX: después de la revolución, debates entre los grupos de intelectuales: nacionalistas revolucionarias—arte mexicana, Rivera, Orozco—versus los contemporáneos, quienes tenían que ver con artes globales. La prensa mexicana usó insultos de homosexualidad para describir y defamar el uno lado al otro
    • In the early 20th century after the Mexican Revolution, the Mexican press used homophobic slurs to defame both sides of the Mexican public art debate between the national reolutionaries and the contemporaries
  • Sara García—la Abuelita del cina mexicano y de las tabletas de chocolate! (supuestamente vivía con su pareja femenina por años)
  • The Mexican actress who is the face of Abuelita chocolate tabs apparently lived with her female partner for years
  • María Felix; femme fatale, fuerte, violenta, le gustaba dominar a los hombres, y su hijo vivió doble vida, actor de telenovelas
    • Femme fatale film star María Felix’s son lived a double life sexually
  • Cantador de rancheros Lupe Reyes y estrella del cine mexicana era supuestamente una lesbiana
  • Siglo XX: un cronista en la Ciudad de México, Salvador Novo era abiertamente homosexual: también era escritor, de poesía, sonetos, y se burló de sus críticos flamboyantemente.
    • A historical chronicler in the 20th century, Salvador Novo, was openly homosexual, and was a writer, a sonnet poet, and flamboyantly scorned his own critics.
  • Stereotypical terminology according to Gilberto: joto=homosexual pobre; maricón (one that most are more familiar with)=homosexual rico, solo, de moda, educado (usually rich, lonely gay man).

The weekend of Valentine’s Day, which was also the weekend of Carnaval and a 4-day school break, I visited Palenque in the state of Chiapas (two states west of Yucatán) in order to spend time with Denise, the mother of my beloved friend Riel; Denise’s business for upwards of 20 years has been to buy inventory from cooperatives in San Cristóbal de las Casas, una de las ciudades más grandes del estado, to sell back in Santa Fe. Riel grew up accompanying Denise there, and Denise goes to Chiapas for one to a couple months at a time each year. We stayed at Mayabell campground (once a hub for hippie druggies, now more of a trailer camper friendly place, although there was still a stuck-in-the-60s pothead vibe to some visitors J) in a little tent underneath a palapa for when it rained lightly at night. The breakfast sándwich energético for only 50 pesos was one of the best breakfasts I’ve had in my life—pan integral/wheat bread, frijoles, huevo, tomates, spinach, turkey bacon…We embarked on a package day trip to Mizol-Ha waterfall and Agua Azul waterfalls—my photos are scant because there was no way to accurately capture the force of the current from the pounding falls, nor the infinite cascades that extended for seemingly miles and miles at Agua Azul. The water was higher than years past, according to Denise, and thus harder to ascend from one pool to the next. We basked on the crumbly limestone (cal) after stuffind ourselves with 7.5 empanadas each near the pinnacle of the waterfall; a great deal of vendors of Chiapas paraphernalia, jewelry, and zillions of variations on a theme of empanadas.

After first meeting up with someone I matched with on women-seeking-women Tinder, a Campechana (someone from the state of Campeche) in her mid-twenties from Ciudad del Carmen downtown at the Catedral to get champolas (milkshakes), about a month and a week ago, we’ve met up a lot and have really hit it off. Besides having a car—súper convenient to meet up with her and her closest friend—she’s been an awesome resource for learning the city, discussing the ups and downs of being gay in Mérida, where in some places being obviously out is suspicious and problematic, and what it’s like to be a Campechana (a state that many Yucatecans make fun of or judge harshly) who’s lived in Mérida the last six years for tech university. From what she’s told me about the tribulations of being one of the only women in the civil engineering program where she studied, much gender prejudice from professors exists, and the environment of machismo in civil engineering gave rise to more need to keep her sexuality under wraps—especially from her own family.

She and I have been to, among other outings, a cool film, yoga, restaurant called La 68 Casa de Cultura Elena Poniatowska, on a tour at night of the city’s Cementerio General in which socialist governor Felipe Carrillo Puerto’s grand tomb lies opposite his gringa journalist lover; and, after I went to a ROMEO SANTOS concert, we embarked with her friend to Pride Disco Show on the Periférico, the outer limits of the city. ¡Qué experiencia más iluminante y sorprendiente! Fuimos en una noche de tema “LesViernes,” entonces el tipo de show era más para lesbianas. LesFriday. You can guess. All the staff and the cool hole-in-a-wall but sophisticated vibe ROCKED. There were several tables of middle-aged butches having the happiest, wildest time watching the súper risqué but awesome show. A very very LGBT-friendly environment, to say the least. Before the lady dancers were several drag acts, and the whole show was directed by two fabulous drag queens.

I already have much fodder for the next blog, and you’ll finally be hearing from me queer peers! Thanks for reading as always, world.

Over and out, xoxo

Emily

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7 weeks has never felt shorter

Time February 23rd, 2015 in 2015 Spring, College Study Abroad, First Generation Scholars, Mexico | No Comments by

Though it’s completely flown by, this first month and a half of studying abroad has been incredibly, incredibly busy and exciting…and scary…and a little stressful…and really amazing. I haven’t posted yet because things have been so crazy…exciting…scary…and a little stressful…and really amazing. Jaja, but here I am to tell you all there is to know about Mérida, México (or better said, all that I’ve learned in these seven weeks). Read More »

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Un mes bien lleno: depth, breadth, much bread, new friends, bikes, discurso

Time February 9th, 2015 in 2015 Spring, College Study Abroad, LGBTQ Correspondents, Mexico | No Comments by

Hola de Mérida en el estado Yucatán, México, 30 de enero 2015! Escribí hace muchos días; el tiempo tiene maneras extrañas de torcerse. Todavía estoy manejando mi vida poco por poco, y entiendo como dejar las cosas como sean porque todo, pero TODO, es impredecible. It’s been a while since I’ve last written; time has a funny way of twisting and changing itself. I’m still learning how to manage my life here, little by little, and how to let things go as they are because everything, I mean everything, is unpredictable! Bear with the length, it’s my style/due to procrastination :) I invite you to either skim or delve in! Read More »

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