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Esther – Mexico

  • Esther
  • Studied abroad as a Junior
  • Studied at: Universidad de Guanajuato in Guanajuato, Mexico
  • Esther is excited to get involved at MU upon her return!

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I studied abroad in Guanajuato, Mexico. I choose to study there because I wanted to go somewhere that no one from my school had ever gone. I found a brand new program called CLA that was based in Guanajuato. I was their first study abroad student ever! I found such a role invigorating, challenging, and exciting. I liked the idea of pushing myself as a trailblazer for a new program. I also really wanted to go specifically to Mexico to experience the culture first hand. Due to recent current events and the controversy in the US regarding, specifically Mexican, immigration I wanted to hear all about the ideas, views, and opinions that people have regarding US-Mexican relations on the other side of the border. Another perk is that the cost of living/studying in Mexico is very low!

The most obvious of my personal goals while studying abroad was to improve my command of the Spanish language. I think I definitely accomplished this goal due more to my Spanish speaking friends and host family then to my university classes! I also really wanted to sharpen my social skills. Before I studied abroad I would sometimes get anxious or intimidated in certain social situations, but after spending my semester in Mexico I have gotten over so many of those negative feelings! If I can ask a stranger for directions in Spanish without feeling nervous or work up the courage to tell my host mom that I don’t like, hot chile powder on my mango than I can do anything! My last big goal was become more self-driven. I tend to be someone who is really good at following directions, or making friends when they are presented to me, etc. But while I was abroad I made sure to plan my own excursions and consciously seek help when I needed it and introduce myself to strangers at school just to see if maybe they would become a friend (and many times, they did!)

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Definitely one of the coolest excursions I went on was when my program director took me and my boyfriend (who was conveniently visiting me at the time) to Mexico City! We went to a bunch of museums, cathedrals, and Frida Kahlo’s house, we toured an enormous Aztec ruin called Teotihuacán, and went on a boat ride with Mariachi bands playing for us the whole time! But the coolest part of this trip was that our “tour guide” was a philosophy professor from UNAM (the biggest and more prestigious university in Mexico.) His name was Daniel and he knew EVERYTHING there is to know about Mexican history, culture, anthropology, etc. His parents were famous Mexican archaeologists and Daniel would go on digs with them. He was there as a young boy when his parents helped discover many famous Mayan ruins!

During my Easter vacation I got to go to Los Cabos and Puerto Vallarta. Both places are beautiful beach towns/cities with so much to do! I also went for a weekend with one of my good friends to his father’s organic ranch in the middle of the desert! We herded cows, ate a cactus, hiked a mountain. It was amazing!

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Millersville students should study abroad because being “alone” in another country is one of the most efficient ways to grow as, 1. a capable and self-sufficient young adult, and 2. a culturally aware, empathetic, and globally-aware human being. You would be surprised how much you don’t know about different cultures in the world. And you will never fully understand another culture, and how other cultures perceive the United States, until you go there. I think it is so important for students to travel outside of this country to realize that there are just as many opportunities and experiences waiting outside the US as there are here at home.

Study abroad, get out of the country, learn another language! A study abroad experience is honestly one of the best things you can do for yourself. My other piece of advice is: get out of your comfort zone! Don’t just go where your friends are going! From my own experience and what many friends have told me from their experiences, a general rule is; the less American students you study abroad with, the more you will gain from the country you visit. This is especially true for students who want to study abroad in order to learn another language. If you DO decide to study abroad with a close friend or in a school with a large number of American students make a “NO English” pact at the beginning of your experience or decide on specific times when English is and is NOT allowed. This is fun and helps students not use their American friends and native language as a crutch for the whole semester.

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