Sunday, September 16, 2012

Pick any 2.. I Mean 3 Study Abroad Student Life in Mexico

So most people know of the Triangle of balance for college students. There are three categories in each point,
1. Sleep  2. Friends  3. Good Grades
Now... pick any two.

Study Abroad is a little more difficult.
When you study abroad you are busy trying to make new friends so you don't die loneliness.
That first week is always the hardest, you may end up just sitting in your room on a Saturday night with nothing to do but stare at the TV screen.
During your study abroad, it is all about those new experiences.
Sitting at home is not one of them...

So eventually you make some really awesome friends.
You start classes - In Mexico, yes you do get A LOT of homework. I for one am taking all my classes in Spanish. As a non native speaker it can be quite a lot of stress.

  • Readings- they take forever especially the first big one, read 50 pages over the weekend - took me the entire weekend. But don't worry you get the hang of it and soon your doing 50 pages in just under 5-7 hours ;) 
  • Papers- highly suggest you utilize your Mexican or native speaker buddies/roomates to help you out after you finish the paper with the grammar, because sometimes it is good to have that back-up security. That way the professor doesn't have to put a big highlighter mark with the word "¿QuĂ©?"under it
  • Group projects... - umm make sure you take EVERYONES name and number/ email because not everyone does have a facebook as I found out. It can be very frustrating when trying to find a definite time and place to meet with them to work on the project and or presentation. And as I would phrase it "trying to heard invisible cats".
  • Homework and language barriers - No one really writes the homework assignments on the white boards unfortunately, so either speak with the professor after class if you have questions or another class mate. That way you won't loose points because you didn't do the right homework is. 
Sleep - What's that?
In order to finish homework/study and then be able to hang out with friends you can loose quite a lot of possible sleep. In order to try and solve this I try studying with friends in the library so you can knock out two birds with one stone. Only problem... actually doing your homework. It can be quite a fun past time, however not the most effective... especially if you do want to actually sleep.

So here comes the part of the not so triangle part of studying abroad.
I call this the Study Abroad Pentagon, there are five and or possibly more points in this square, however with the same concept as the triangle you can only pick any 3 of those points.
1. Sleep
2. Friends
3. Good grades
4. Traveling
5. Staying in contact with friends from home and family
6. Possibly more...

This leads us to the point of traveling, - why study abroad? You want to see new places right? So yes you are allowed to travel around while living in another country, because what is the point otherwise? There is not much of a cultural experience if you stay in the same place all the time. It is highly recommended that when going on trips though, that you give yourself enough leeway time to complete your homework, so maybe go on a three day or four day weekends. Because traveling to all the recommended areas can require a bit of time and money to get to.

Now for staying in touch with friends and family from home. When you go to study abroad, everyone wants to know if you are ok. What have you been up to? Where have you been? Blogs can be very useful for this ;) However you can fall out of contact with a lot of people. Everyone has their own life to keep up with without having to call you every day to find out how your life is going. So usually the only people you can maintain contact with are the ones that are willing to keep messaging you, aka Parents. best friends, and if you have one the boyfriend/girlfriend. It is hard to stay in contact when you already have so much stuff to work on and do. So I recommend setting up Skype dates or just when you need a break from everything to go ahead and call someone up. For parents - try to at least call them once or twice a week. Best friends - keep messaging them please, they are your friends, aaannndd Boyfriends/Girlfriends - agree on communication before hand, but try not to get to concerned if it is an exam week and your significant other doesn't call you as much. It goes both ways. Everyone gets busy so communication is hard to keep up.

So back to the Pentagon - Pick any 3.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Vacationing in Puerto Escondido: What can go wrong will

Puerto Escondido -

Awesome spot to learn to surf and beautiful area.

Suggestions upon arrival -
1. Make sure your bus arrives during open hostel or hotel hours

For a vacation two other girls and I decided it would be fun to go to Puerto Escondido. However, one was going to be in Mexico city at the start of the trip so we made a meeting point in Oaxaca - (Also another beautiful city to visit in Mexico if you have the chance CHOCOLATE center of Mexico), My friend and I got there a few days early and stayed at the Casa Angel Youth Hostel (very good hostel and highly recommended) We wanted to get to Puerto Escondido as early as possible so that we could hit the beach, so as soon as our other friend arrived we took a smaller bus out at 7pm to get to Puerto Escondido. Wellll.... it is about a 6 hour drive because of all the switchbacks in the mountains. Annnddd then it started raining... thus we arrived in Puerto Escondido at 3 am. So we found out 4 things when we arrived

1. It was hard to catch a cab
2. The hostel (cause we wanted to be cheap) that we wanted to get to stay at was full and reception was closed
3. We ended up sleeping in plastic chairs... (me giving up and taking my towel out to sleep on the sand)
4. There were Mosquitos... lots of mosquitos

so try to arrive during daylight hours

So next suggestion
2. BRING MOSQUITO REPELLANT - or you WILL be eaten alive

3. Unless you are in a 4 star hotel there is not air conditioners... It is very hot and sticky even at night. So try to stick it out or pay 700 pesos for air conditioning. It is possible for a cheap stay at a hostel just be prepared for the heat.

4. If you want good swimming and/or surfing Carcizalillo Cove is the one to go to. Pack light because it is a long way down the stairs. - There are lunch and surf shops down there. (The waves are really good for beginners as well as more advanced surfers.)

5. For surfers, stick to the center main surf shop beginners especially... please.

Last day I went to that beach I wasn't quite sure if I was going to surf so I swam for a little while then reconsidered and went to go rent for an hour. However, they had just given the last rentals to some people taking surfing lessons, they sent me to the other side of the beach where there was another shop. They charged 10 pesos more for an hour making it 80 but I just wanted to surf so I gave them 100 to get the change back on my and the boards "safe" return. I'm still a bit of a beginner but I didn't see any problems.

10 minutes after getting in the water and swimming out a large wave crashes over me and the board is drug from my hands, thus pulls my ankle for a while. Well whatever floats usually comes back up... Only problem was that it was in two pieces. (An oh f#ck moment) this leads to suggestion number 6

6. Be careful with a broken surfboard the plastic will cut you but try to be quick about it. The longer it takes for you to get back in, the harder it is to not get overly smashed by waves and cut up in the process of not losing it . Oh and don't use a Styrofoam surfboard w only one rod of wood that supports the back wrapped in plastic.

However, you have to drag it back in to return it, this took me quite a while in the last 10 feet because 1. the board was in two and 2. There is a swell until the last 2 feet of the water meeting the beach where you can not touch. yay me...

7. When returning the board DO NOT agree to the first price that the vendors ask you to pay. Mine asked for 500 pesos which I honestly did not have...

I basically ended up paying an extra 100 pesos to pay for the broken board.

8. You can surprisingly find a friend when you get into this kind of situation
Some Mexican women had seen my plight and offered to help me with talking to the vendors about the price. (I was at that point crying my eyes out in frustration) And then offered me a beer and some cocoanut to help me calm down. For this I am eternally greatful to them. We then talked for a while and exchanged names so we could find each other on facebook, with the offer to come visit any time.

9. Do not leave any of your stuff you do not want to get went on the sand.
The waves literally come up to the restaurant tables, I had left my towel and stuff at the highest point of the beach so that I could lie on my towel if I wanted to. Bad plan... Water completely washed up all my stuff which included my phone. (Luckily for me it was off and I bought a bag of rice to put it in. It still works though now tends to malfunction on a few things)

10. Make sure to buy your bus tickets ahead of time when you are heading back.
This way you don't have to wait a few hours because all the early buses have filled up.

Overall the trip was great, just had some amusing (though not amusing at the time) crappy moments. You can't prepare for all of the things that will happen on trips in Mexico but hopefully this list can help you prepare at least a little more. :)

Monday, July 30, 2012

What Mexico is Really Like- Puebla Mexico anyways

Common things people may not know about Mexico? (And some tips )

  1. In Cholula, Mexico it has seriously rained almost everyday since I got here 5 weeks ago. (normally you think of Mexico as arid and full of cactus) - in this part of Mexico FALSE
  2. With the summers in Cholula it can be quite chilly
  3. Cholula and Puebla are very nice cities and peaceful, except for the fireworks
  4. There are ALOT of fireworks, every day they are going off ( it basically means anyone that can hear or see the fireworks are welcome to their party) 
  5. Mexicans literally party every day of the week, except Sundays (well most of the time)
  6. Only weekend buying and selling alcohol is prohibited is during the Presidential Elections 
  7. Yes they have a drinking age... 18
  8. You don't flush the toilet paper after it is used, they don't have a good sewage system, just throw it in the trash can
  9. Don't bother buying stuff at Walmart, try to go to the local markets - it will be a lot cheaper 
  10. Barter with prices on stuff you want to buy, especially if your at a big tourist area you can bring down the price on some really expensive items. (some people will actually refuse to sell to you if you simply accept the first price they set)
  11. There is ALOT of PDA 
  12. When greeting a person you kiss the side of their cheek (though if both are guys a good bro hand shake works) 
  13. Most people are very polite and it is very common to use the Usted of you 
  14. If you are a blond girl, you WILL stand out. (and will probably get a few whistles from passing cars) 
  15. If your a new visitor Seriously, don't eat street vendors food that requires cooked food or ice. (It's not pretty either way it comes out) - i.e. food poisoning or Montezuma's Revenge 
  16. DON'T drink the water unless it is bottled 
  17. Check to see how hot/spicy your food is before you add the salsa (also check the salsa)
  18. You can use a tortilla as a spoon
  19. Shorts and tank tops are used though usually not as a combination 
  20. Girls wear extremely tall heels when they go out (main form is platformish with spikes for heels... hurts to get stepped on so wear protection ;)
  21. People are a lot shorter here so 5'3 blends in a bit better :D yay me!
  22. American Football is the new thing for colleges 
To be continued :)

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Why travel?

Mexico, always an interesting subject. I have currently been in Mexico for 6 weeks. In my college I have joined an exchange program called a Dual Degree Program - This is a program designed for my Communications major between my school, Appalachian State University (ASU) in the U.S. and La Universidad de las Americas Puebla (UDLAP) in Mexico. Basically I take classes for my major at ASU for my Freshman and Senior years, and take them in Mexico at UDLAP for my Sophomore and Junior years. At the completion of my studies I will have a degree in Communications both UDLAP and ASU. Should be interesting, mas o menos. However before this program has started, I have been in a Spanish Immersion program for the past 5 weeks at UDLAP and have meet some really awesome people, Mexican and American alike. :) So far Mexico has treated me well and I'm looking forward to my next experiences.

Now to answer my question of why travel? - If you have never visited another country, you are missing out on a life changing experience, you meet people you never would have met and make life long friendships along the way. Yes countries have their stereotypes and dangers, just don't be stupid and you will be fine, that shouldn't stop you.

I used to think that it was just too expensive to even try traveling out of country. But turns out, it can be very similar to traveling just to another state. It can even be cheeper (and safer). Every day it is easier and easier for young people of today to travel and see the world. There are places in Mexico that you can go to and stay at a hostel for $10 a night and is right on the beach. And for the next two weeks I will be doing exactly that while I wait for school to start back up.

Nos vemos