Today marks a week since I arrived home in New Zealand. Many components of my lifestyle in Mexico were different, and I had to adjust. Adjusting back home made me recognize the differences between Mexico and New Zealand and the changes within myself over my time away.
Although I have spoken English my entire life, and it is the only language I am fluent in, I was shocked to realize how difficult it was to not communicate in Spanish. The number of times I have gone up to a restaurant or cafe and was about to order in Spanish was insane. Or how I would casually throw a Spanish comment in conversation with my English-speaking friends without realizing it. To go from road signs, advertisements, music, instructions, or the general public speaking in Spanish to English was a shock to the system.
It is interesting because I would get so nervous about speaking in Spanish overseas, as I was worried I would say something wrong. Even though I had intense anxiety levels at the time, I do miss being able to learn another language. Overcoming this challenge was rewarding, and once you grasped the language, it was so fun to conversate, read, write, and listen in Spanish.
Not only do I miss the language, but consistently been around my best friends and other foreigners for the entirety of the trip. I worked alongside these beautiful people from 6:30am to 9:30pm every day. We did everything together, including making our meals, studying, and enjoying the general atmosphere of Mexico. From being strangers at the start of this program, everyone within the Social Realities Programme is my family. Due to this component, it was difficult to adjust to New Zealand life without my people. I might not be with this group every moment of my day anymore. However, I know the bonds we created on this trip will last a lifetime.
I have a strong appreciation for traveling with foreigners; everyone has the same mindset to meet new people and be high on life together. We could be from opposite sides of the world, yet come together due to a similar drive to make new memories. I enjoyed getting to know people from various backgrounds, languages, and cultures. Some experiences I took part in with people I had only met a couple of times are unforgettable. Having to get back to the usual study and work grind within New Zealand made me appreciate these spontaneous moments I had in Mexico. This makes me excited to travel to new places and continue to create crazy memories with new people.
Something I had missed about New Zealand was being by nature consistently. I grew up in a neighborhood called Beachlands, where swimming was essential to your daily routine. Amidst an uptown city, life-like Mexico made me realize my appreciation for the beach. Most of my time back in New Zealand has involved swimming and sitting by our beautiful beaches. When I go back to Mexico, I hope to have the chance to visit their beaches and find a piece of my home during my travels.
Amongst enjoying New Zealand’s nature, I loved being able to re-connect with loved ones. It was amazing getting to experience new places with new people , but nothing can beat being at home with people you love. I enjoyed being able to tell them about my experiences overseas and simply be back in their presence again.
Overall my adjustment to being home has been a shock to the system, and a fond appreciation for the lifestyles in Mexico and New Zealand. Returning from something so extraordinary like Mexico to my daily routine in New Zealand made me realize how much I had grown. During our debrief meeting with 360 International, our coordinator Sarah presented an accurate quote for this feeling. “There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find how yourself have altered.” As said by the wise words of Nelson Mandela, my intuition, goals, beliefs, and perspective on general life have altered for the better.
My Overall Experience
The Social Realities in Mexico program re-lit my love and passion for my Global Studies degree. The usual reply to saying I did Global Studies was, “so what career do you want out of that?”. As the Bachelor itself can lead to various career pathways, I was still determining where and how to reach my goals. As New Zealand is geographically so far away from many social issues and projects, and lectures involved solely theoretical work, it was hard to put my desires into practical use. The help of program’s non-governmental organization visits helped me put my academic work into projects. Being able to witness people physically contributing to the ideals we talked about in class was inspirational. It gave me ideas on what I could do for my studies and the mental drive to do so.
My experience of being in Mexico, it also humanized many social issues. To be consistently learning about human rights violations within Auckland lectures can lead to desensitization to these topics. Again, being so geographically distanced from these issues meant we never truly got to experience the social, cultural, and environmental consequences. Hearing from lecturers and experts with direct experience in these areas, or witnessing case studies and images through our non-governmental organization, meant we had to confront raw realities. It was often difficult to face these experiences, but they brought so much more meaning than it being another statistic.
Humanizing these social realities also made me realize the significance my work could have on a single person’s life. Studying for a degree that wants to solve overall global issues can be confronting and misleading, in which your work will not be able to fix an entire society. However, living in an environment where you can see how it impacts a singular life makes you realize that helping one person can make an overall difference.
I could write multiple novels about how this trip transformed my life and how I want to live mine. Finding out I was rewarded with this opportunity brought fear and worry about going outside my comfort zone. After this experience, the most terrifying chances are the best. You will only realize how much you can accomplish if you step outside your daily routine. I can not thank 360 International, Education New Zealand, the University of Auckland, and Iberoamericana enough for this experience. I will continue to work alongside these projects in Mexico and implement the skills I learned on this trip into everyday life.