Student Blogs & Vlogs | College Study Abroad Programs, IFSA-Butler

7 weeks has never felt shorter

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).

I’ll start off with telling the basics of my life here in Merida, Mexico since the day-to-day stuff is what has really made me fall in love with this place!

Let’s talk about how public transportation is usually 7 pesos at most. Though this is a little pricy (lol nah), we can drop this down to 3 pesos with a student ID card. Seriously, pretty much anywhere you want to go in Merida, you can hop on a camion and get there for 3-7 pesos. Talk about a broke college student’s dream.

That’s one of the really cool/really dangerous things about living here; everything is relatively super cheap. Cool because it’s easy to go out to eat, go explore, go out on the weekends, etc. etc., but dangerous because it’s really easy to overdo it sometimes, man. I mean…really easy. I’ve set up a weekly budget for myself to keep myself in check. But the point is, it’s been much easier to go out and enjoy yourself here without having to apologize to your wallet the whole night.

Some of my other favorite things about this wonderful place:

1. Mérida is about an hour away from a beach called Progreso, which is absolutely hermosa! And if you want to see some that are even more HERMOOOOOSA, it’s only about a four hour trip to Riviera Maya where some of the most beautiful beaches in the WORLD are–Cancun, Tulum, Playa del Carmen, Isla Mujeres…absolutely amazing, y’all.

2. MI FAMILIA! My host family here consists of mi mamá, whose name is also Gina and is wonderful and makes the most amazing mole enchiladas, my sister Fernanda who is my age and goes to the same university as me, y mi abuelita preciosa who I absolutely adore. One day I had told her that I was frustrated with the book I had to read for Spanish (La Casa de Los Espíritus by Isabel Allende) because it took me forever to read and understand the Spanish, and she told me it was her favorite book and that she’d love to read it with me and explain to me everything I didn’t understand. So now every night before she goes to bed, she reads me a few pages from the book. Does it make me feel like a five year old? Yes. But do I love it? Yes. Super cute.

3. The people. Literally everyone. Everyone is so openly friendly everywhere. I’ve never had someone look at me like I’m weird for saying “good morning” while passing them on the street. Yup, happens all the time at home. The students at the university are amazing. Super helpful. Super nice. Super fun. And the other students here with IFSA are equally amazing. My biggest fear about coming here was that I wasn’t going click with anyone and that the fact that my Spanish isn’t perfect would keep me from making friends. I’m so thankful that wasn’t the case. I’ve clicked with every person from the program in a different way, and the friends I’ve made from the university have made this experience incredible. They’ve gone above and beyond to make me feel comfortable here, show me the “Mexi ropes” as I like to call them, and honestly given me something to look forward to every day here. Ayyy los amo.

Some of the things I’ve struggled adjusting to:

1. Missing my family and friends at home. Let’s be honest, it’s inevitable. But it’s impossible to prepare yourself for how much it’s gonna hurt sometimes seeing snapchat stories of all your friends together having a good time, missing people’s birthdays, missing my kitten’s kittenhood (she was 6 months when I left #sadface), and simply missing being around what’s familiar and what’s comfortable. Something that’s really important, in my opinion, about studying abroad is that you have to, absolutely HAVE to, accept the fact that the experience truly is going to change everything. I mean, I’m not trying to be dramatic, but it’s important to realize that it’s an experience that forces you to grow in all kinds of ways. And a semester really is kind of a long time. Things aren’t going to be exactly the same when you go back home and relationships are going to be different. Not necessarily bad different, but different. Sometimes it’s really hard for me to accept that and I get sad thinking about all the things I’m missing. But I’m having the time of my life over here and that’s what studying abroad should be about! Little by little, I’m learning that. :)

2. Getting used to the school system here. In the U.S. I go to the University of Texas, a humongous school with 50,000 students. Every class is like at least 100 people, some more. So it’s a little weird for me having classes of 7-15 people here. Man it changes everything! At UT, I can wake up, go to school without doing my hair or makeup or anything, hoping the people I know won’t spot me out of the other 50,000 (lol), listen to the professor lecture without having to participate in any kind of class discussion or do any group work or anything. That’s what I’m used to and that’s what I’m comfortable with. Here, the small classes allow for a lot of active participation (gag). My professors are always like, “Que piensas, Gina?” (What do you think?) And I’m just like… uhhhh, no sé, wey (I don’t know, bruh). Hahahaha no jk. But really, being a pretty shy person, it’s been hard for me to get used to having to talk in class and give lots of presentations and do a lot of group work. I’m still not 100% comfortable with my Spanish, so that makes it even more uncomfortable. But I’m happy to have this opportunity that’s forcing me to break out of my shell and forcing me to have more confidence in my Spanish. Honestly, I really do need both.

One thing that’s been something positive and negative, is that the workers at the university this program is attached to, Universidad Autónoma de Yucatán, went on strike the third week after schools started, leaving us completely stressed out about what we were going to do. I had finally gotten all my classes chosen, met all my professors, and made friends, and BAM, HUELGA! The positives: It gave me a couple of weeks relatively free to explore Merida and surrounding areas, spend time with my friends without constantly worrying about tarea, and simply relax a bit. Also, since we didn’t know how long the strike was going to last, our IFSA director found us another university to start going to, Universidad Modelo, a private university. It’s been interesting seeing how the two universities are different, one being public and one being private. It’s been awesome getting to know students from both universities. DOUBLE THE FWWIENDSSSS! hehe. The negative: it’s really thrown off my groove a bit. It’s been difficult for me to find a routine being switched around all over the place. And since we started at UADY, we missed two weeks of class at Modelo, and seeing how it’s already difficult to understand what’s going on in class sometimes, it’s been a struggle catching up with everything. I’ve gone to each class three times, and we already have midterms next week. So needless to say, STRESS OVERLOAD. #thestruggle. But we’ll all survive.

 

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