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Reflecting on Time Abroad in Mérida, Mexico

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The author of this piece and dining companions at Museo Gastronomia in Mérida.The author of this piece and dining companions at Museo Gastronomia in Mérida.

In the midst of the end of your typical end of semester chaos (last minute edits to your essays, studying for final exams, etc.) my friend and I recently discussed some of our personal reflections and things that we could have done differently if we could go back in time. Although I have thoroughly enjoyed the months that I have spent in Mérida, these are some of the aspects of the study abroad experience that I wish I had been more intentional about, and hope that future students might consider prior to beginning their study abroad journey.

The author and three fellow students smiling and posing together in a group photo at the first day of classes at UADY in Mérida.

I am including some of my personal reflections as well as bits and pieces of discussions that I have had with friends as we begin reflecting on our experiences during these last few weeks in Mérida.

Bring some habits from home with you abroad.

For example, back home in Portland I really enjoy going on daily walks. Although as the temperatures began to rise throughout the semester, I was less inclined to spend more time sweating outside, I wish that I had carved more time out of each day to go on walks either alone or with friends.

Don’t be afraid to spend time alone.

I know that it can feel lonely or isolating at times when you are adjusting to a new environment, community, and in some study abroad cases, a new language, but being intentional about the time that you spend alone is super important. One of my fondest memories of the semester was when I took myself to the beach for the day. I had intended to spend the day alone, but I ended up meeting some people on the beach and spent the day with them. The people you randomly meet and also the time that you get to spend with yourself are two of the most beautiful parts about traveling and studying abroad.

Consume more media in the language of the place that you are abroad.

The author and two fellow students pictured together smiling and looking back at the camera on a sunny sidewalk in Oaxaca during the Semana Santa trip.

Although when I am in Portland I try to listen to music and watch TV and movies in Spanish, while in Mérida I found myself reaching for media in English, probably to find comfort and give my brain a break from Spanish. I think that if I had pushed myself to immerse myself more in the language, my language skills likely would have improved more than they did, however I think that it is important to balance the desire to improve at a language and also give yourself time to relax and unwind.

I hope you enjoyed reading some of my personal reflections, and I hope it helps you think about your intentions for your study abroad experience. I also want to note that it can be easy to reflect and wish that you had done things differently, but I want you to know that regardless of how you end up spending your time while abroad, you will get something positive out of it.

Molly Gibbons is a student at Lewis and Clark College IFSA Mérida Universities Program, Mexico in Spring 2023. She is an International Correspondent for IFSA through the Work-To-Study Program.