Our programme began with a long 12 hour flight to the City of Lost Angels. Unfortunately during our departure from Los Angeles, we did in fact lose some of our angels along the way. Due to our delayed flight, being the last people to receive our checked bags, and the massive lines for L.A security, only half of us made it into our connecting flight to Mexico. It felt like an episode from “The Amazing Race,” staggering through the airport, holding 30kg of luggage, and hoping to make our flight on time.
Upon arrival on the AeroMexico plane, it felt like I entered a completely different world. I was surrounded by Spanish through passengers, signs, televisions, and general staff on the flight. The culture shock brought a concoction of nerves and excitement to finally get use to my Spanish studies. The culture shock continued as we arrived in the City of Mexico. On the way to our hostel, there was a continuous pattern of colours throughout all buildings. The avenues were made up of beautiful plants, old American cars, cafés, and taco stands at every corner. Knowing this was going to be my home for the next six weeks brought a sense of comfort and curiosity to my experience in this beautiful city.
Within my first 24 hours of living in Mexico, I did notice some obvious social and cultural differences between Mexicans and New Zealanders. Actions that we do not second-think, such as driving and walking on the left side, work completely the opposite in the Americas. Having to adjust to these simple social cues while understanding a completely different language made me realise how much we can take for granted in little New Zealand. Even temperature changes in weather make drastic differences on how different cultures react. During our time away we have had clear blue skies with the temperature of 24 degrees, something you would expect to see in a typical New Zealand summer, right? However the current season in Mexico is Winter, in which all citizens have been continuously wearing puffer jackets , long pants and sweaters as they found these weather conditions to be freezing. Whereas us Kiwis have been slip, slop, and slapping sunscreen on while wearing singlets and shorts. To compare and contrast these ideals was something I didn’t expect to happen on my time away but was very interesting to observe.
We began our Orientation Day at Ibero University through being welcomed by our coordinators, Andrea and Flavia. The warm greetings and tour of a beautiful campus made me feel excited to begin my studies of Social Issues and Spanish at Ibero. Upon the tour of the University, Flavia provided us with a lovely backstory of one of the coffee shops situated on campus. Many years ago, an Ibero student helped an indigenous community make their beans into a proper brand to sell for coffee. Through this amazing experience, Ibero was able to have an on-campus coffee shop that not only sells these coffee beans but whose entire funds go back to the indigenous community.
After the tour, they invited all of us to lunch , in which we got the opportunity to try cactus and Mexico’s iconic dish of tacos. The taste of cooked cactus was interesting, to say the least, but it tasted better with cheese and lime sprinkled on top. Of course, the hype of Mexican food was proven true when we got to try the Pastor taco, which had pork, pineapple, salsa, lime juice and coriander. The flavours were melting in my mouth with each bite while providing the usual spicy tinge.
Our first weekend in Mexico was spent doing a scavenger hunt in the city center with 60 other international students. With there being around 60 of us, I had a range of people in my group that were situated in different places around the world. This included places such as Bolivia, France, Mexico and Kiwis from Palmerston North. Funny enough, we could tell who the New Zealanders were when we saw a group wearing shorts and singlets in the Mexico Winter. The scavenger hunt gave us all the opportunity to not only see gorgeous sites but learn about the historical and cultural significance they had to Mexicans. Some landmarks included the Handmade markets, Las Bellas Artes, La Casa de Los Azulejos, and art museums. Being taught by my group members about these gorgeous landmarks and their own personal stories made me fall in love with Mexico even more.
As I have reflected upon my first four days in Mexico, I feel truly blessed to have this opportunity. I already feel that I have learnt so much and my studies haven’t even begun yet.
Hasta luego, mis amigos.