An essential aspect of having an open mind when interning abroad is being able to embrace the culture of the place you visit. In my case, adapting to Mexico was not a problem because I love its culture. Starting from how welcoming the Mexicans make you feel, the exotic and delicious food you can try, the diverse art expressions you can see, and the unique work environment.
Part of embracing a country’s culture is getting to know its people. Having a Mexican host mom was a great experience. I spent countless hours getting to know her, asking for advice, and exploring the city with her. At first, she was unfamiliar to me but quickly she became a great friend.
Let’s not forget how important food is in experiencing a culture. During my time in Merida, I tried terrific dishes such as Cochinita Pibil, Relleno Negro, and Poc Chuc. One of the most exotic experiences was trying Cochinita Pibil ice cream. The taste was strange, but the experience was out of the box. If you are adventurous to try new things, I am sure you will have many delicious memories of Mexican food.
I can’t talk about Merida without mentioning how fascinating it was to learn about the Mayan culture and its majestic archaeological sites. One of the most breathtaking experiences was witnessing a modern performance of an ancient Mayan ballgame where the players hit the ball with their hips. It was fascinating to visit Merida’s museums, which are full of beautiful paintings about the colonial age, the traditional Yucatan customs, Mexican pottery, and photography.
Ultimately, adapting to Mexico’s work environment was an enriching challenge. Delfina is the leader of Semilla de Dioses, a women’s cooperative that supports Mayan women from the peninsula of Yucatan. She was an energetic boss willing to hear my ideas on how to help the cooperative, instead of just dictating orders.
At the beginning of my internship, I knew that some of my experience would be working independently. I was going to manage my own time and projects. I can’t lie; I wasn’t expecting this type of independence. I reminded myself that work environments differ and that I need to keep an open mind and make the most out of this opportunity.
It would have been interesting to come up with my own ideas to help the organization, but I also felt slightly intimidated because it was my first time working without specific guidelines. Therefore, I disciplined myself, created a schedule with deadlines for my work on social media marketing campaigns and business development workshops, and stayed committed to it. This experience opened my eyes to real-life situations and taught me to rely upon my own resources and imagination to figure out ways to solve issues.
The best way to embrace any culture is to keep an open mind and be adventurous to try new things. I was able to grow through these experiences and have a new outlook going into my future adventures.
Daniela Flores is one of IFSA’s Summer FGCS awardees and studied abroad with IFSA in Merida, Mexico.