When I began my semester-long study abroad program in Mérida, Mexico, with IFSA-Butler, it was my second study abroad program in a row. I had already studied in Nantes, France for a semester, and I had only been home for ten days in between the two. At first I was terrified, because my Spanish was so rusty from speaking French intensively for a semester. But then I realized that this was my second chance at study abroad! All the things I wished I’d done differently in France, I could do in Mexico!
One of the main things I wished I had done better in France was make friends with more French students, and because I had already had my France experience and knew where my strengths and weaknesses were in terms of making friends, I was able to start my Mexico semester off to a great start making friends. I talked to three girls in my statistics class on the first day, and they were very interested to hear about my background and where I was from and why I had come to Mexico. One of them had even been to Vermont before! I ended up talking to these girls in class all semester, and we would work together on projects for class, and I went to one of their houses for dinner once, with some other IFSA students.
One of the other great ways that I made diverse friends in Mérida was through an organization started by students called Mexperiencia. Mexperiencia hosted parties excursions to nearby destinations, like cenotes (caves filled with water that you can swim in), grutas (caves), or overnight trips to farther away cities, all specifically for international students and other students of “movilidad” (exchange students, sometimes from the same country but a different state/university). Mexperiencia created a smaller community within the student population of Mérida, and I was able to interact with the same people on a regular basis, making it easier to make friends. I made tons of friends through Mexperiencia from all over the world. My best friends were from Germany, China, Japan, and the Mexican state of Tabasco. I still keep in touch with them all.
While I had a great academic and cultural experience in Mexico as well, it was the social experience that really made my semester in Merida unforgettable. Every study abroad experience is different and I think the fact that I went into it not expecting it to be the same as my first study abroad experience allowed me to make the most of my semester in Mérida.
This is a picture of me in front of a cathedral in San Cristobal, Chiapas, Mexico. From left to right: Evita from China, Ilse from Mexico, Nina from Germany, me (Hanna) from the United States.
Hanna Mosenthal is a student at Whitman College and studied abroad with IFSA on the Merida Universities Program in Mexico in 2013.