Hola y Bienvenidos a Querétaro, Mexico! My name is Paige and I’m a Sophomore studying International Relations and Global Studies. With a specialization in Latin American studies and security, I knew that Mexico would be the perfect location to continue my studies. Since this is my first reflection on my time in Mexico, I thought I’d keep things local and talk about what it’s like living with a host family and transitioning to a new campus. I also wanted to snapshot current events to give a broader picture of how my experience fits into the larger context of what’s happening in Mexico.
Host Family Life
Welcome to the family! This was taken after my host parents and I got back from the airport and sat down to dinner with everyone. From left to right you’ll meet my host sister Lili and her husband Adam, my host father Pepe, my host brother Lalo, me, and my host mother Lulu! Everyone has been so incredibly welcoming and eager to get to know me and help me as I settle into Mexico. Family life and campus life overlap a lot in our family, as Adam and Lili are professors and my host mom is a secretary at Tecnologico de Monterrey. My host father is an elementary school bus driver and also sings at our church. Lalo graduated recently and works as a child counselor/psychologist.
When applying to study abroad, I heard a lot of back and forth about the pros and cons of living with a host family vs finding housing independently. Though clearly biased, I can share my thought process when making that decision and also talk about my reality while living with my host family. When considering living abroad, I knew that I was going to be immersed in a lot of new situations and challenges that I would have the opportunity to navigate. With a host family, I knew that I could start my time in Mexico with a strong foundation and surround myself with people that were genuinely interested in welcoming me into their country and into their lives. I also wanted to see what an authentic day-to-day Mexican lifestyle might include. While I knew google maps and travel blogs (*wink*) could help guide me through Querétaro, I was also excited to have the chance to ask my host family for their insights as I work to find my place as a true Queretana.
I think the key to having a successful relationship with a host family comes first by being completely honest in your application. Don’t be shy about indicating your eating, nightlife, and living preferences. No need to hide! This form is so important to finding the perfect host family match and making the semester comfortable.
I also wanted to comment upon the balance of being open-minded/trying new things and being comfortable. While abroad, I’ve already encountered so many new foods and cultural norms that weren’t a part of my life in the states. At dinner, my host parents are always eager to see what I find spicy and what new foods I enjoy. On campus, I’ve discovered that exercising and partaking in cultural extracurriculars is a must. My point is, while it may be easier to seek out a good cheeseburger or stick with your friends from the states, it’s so much more worth it to see if that salsa really is too spicy or leave campus to go train with your host mom’s running group. It is so worth it to sign up for a salsa class even if your hips protest! It is so worth it to give up a few minutes of sleep so that you can eat breakfast and talk to your host brother before leaving school. Foregoing your traditional schedule/routine may be challenging, but in doing this you learn so much more about yourself and the people you’re sharing your study abroad experience with!
Syllabus week is over and the tarea (homework) is rolling in! Having finished my second week at Tec, I think I’m really going to enjoy my schedule. I worked with the international office to have half of my classes in Spanish and the other half in English. This has been great for my transition into the new semester on a new campus! I’ve been able to meet more international students and Tec students as well.
Everyone is eager to welcome me to campus and ask me about my life back in Texas.
Tec is also very interesting in that almost everyone is bilingual in English and Spanish. Sometimes this means that I insist on practicing my Spanish with other students. If anything I’m grateful for their patience and their willingness to practice with me!
The student body and campus is also smaller than that of UT. (No scooters required to conquer Dean Keeton)! Tec offers bikes that students can use to get across campus quickly, though, in my experience, it takes about 10 minutes to walk from one end of campus to the other. The student body at Tec is made up of 6,000 students which gives the campus a small town feel, especially when comparing it to the 50,000 Longhorns I usually share the 40 acres with! While certainly different, I’ve really enjoyed Tec and am so thankful that the staff and students have gone out of their way to make all of the international students feel welcome and open to asking for help/clarification.
I’m also excited to be starting an Internship with El Centro de Apoyo Marista al Migrante/ The Marista Migrant Support Center (CAMMI). Tec helped foster this connection and as of tomorrow, I’ll start working on the Universidad Marista campus to help with immigrant needs alongside legal work that the Center does.
What’s Happening in Queretaro?
Outside of my life on campus and in my new casa, a lot of interesting events have been happening in Mexico. With the recent election of Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador aka AMLO, traditional politics have been shaken up by the pledge of the Morena Party member to purge the government of corruption. The election of AMLO marks the end of a political era dominated by the PRI (Institutional Revolutionary Party).
Through this pledge to end corruption, Obrador’s administration has since faced the arrest of over 400 politicians and gas shortages throughout Mexico City and surrounding areas (Queretaro!!!). Networks of people, including politicians, have been stealing gas from Pemex, the nationalized Mexican gas company. No, they haven’t just been stealing money from Pemex, they’ve actually been drilling holes in the gas pipelines to leech gas and sell it later. In efforts to put a stop to such criminal activity, AMLO’s administration has been tasked with locating the drilled pipes, digging them up, and replacing them with new piping. This means that the flow of gas to major metropolitan areas has been all but cut off.
In Queretaro, you could find immense traffic from the number of people clogging up gas stations and waiting in line for blocks down the street from the Pemex stations. People resorted to sleeping in their cars overnight while waiting for the stations to be refilled. Others resorted to robbing gas straight from people’s gas tanks.
My host mom joked with me about riding bikes to school. We laughed about it and never had to, though there was a part of me that was preparing myself to start pedaling. My host brother would leave the house at odd hours of the morning in hopes of avoiding lines when filling up his motorcycle.
The most recent devastation from this anti-corruption effort comes from Hidalgo, Mexico. Just last week a huge explosion from one of the infiltrated pipelines killed over 100 people, some of them attempting to bring home a can of gas to their family.
It’s very interesting to live through an event like this, especially after talking on the phone with my mom and realizing that my reality here in Mexico is simply a news story back home in the states. Recent events have challenged me to rethink my transportation habits; I’ve started taking the city bus to school each morning in efforts to save gas and avoid the gas crisis.
Experiencing all that has been happening as a result of the gas shortages also reinforces my belief in the importance of being informed and keeping up to date with the news. While the gas shortage has caused inconvenience and in, the case of Hidalgo, suffering, understanding the roots of an issue like this is so important in helping to find a solution and prevent it from happening again.
Living in Queretaro, and especially with a host family, has let me see how current events impact an average household in Mexico. It has allowed me to differentiate between the reality of the situation and its presentation in the media as well. If anything, I certainly watch the news from a new perspective and try to understand how current events may impact communities on an individual level, as opposed to just accepting the facts of a situation.
This post was contributed by Paige Johnson, a 2019 Global Ambassador.
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