Hey everyone, so I have officially been home for about 2 weeks now. I have to say I do miss being abroad. I miss having something fun and exciting to do every day.
Looking back, I wanted to study abroad because I wanted to step out of my comfort zone. I was ready to visit a new country and experience a new culture. When I learned of the Culture and Community Heath Program in Oaxaca, Mexico I knew this was the program for me. We were practically staying in the heart of the city, I was helping the community, and in an environment where a completely different language was spoken. Going to Oaxaca I had so many different expectations. I thought my Spanish would be pretty good because I was practicing on Duolingo (L.O.L). I thought I could work with horses without fear and I did not think traveling to another country would cause me to go through culture shock. Of course, I was wrong.
When I arrived in Mexico, my Spanish was not good AT ALL. I realized there was so much that I didn’t know. At times this would frustrate me, and it did cause me to go through culture shock. I would become frustrated with myself because I could not communicate with people. I would often lean on a friend who was fluent in Spanish. However, instead of isolating myself I decided that this was my chance to grow. My classmates would reassure me that it was okay to make mistakes. I would tell myself, “You are going to mess up and that’s okay”. I remembered that this was an opportunity for me to improve.
For my work placement I chose horse therapy (in Mexico it is called Equinoterapia). Before arriving, I did not think horses would bother me. I thought I was mentally prepared to work with them until I arrived at the worksite. In the beginning, the horses made me nervous. They were big, and I thought they were going to stomp on me. It took some time to adjust. What really helped me was the therapy Carolina (the horse therapist) suggested. She wanted me to walk with the horses freely on the farm with sugar cubes; no restrictions. The sugar cubes would make the horses follow me and kind of surround me. It is a method of therapy that helps people deal with their emotions and fears. Once you realize you can take control, it helps you realize you can conquer your fears. Now I will admit I did not hold the sugar cubes. I let my classmate walk with them, however I did enter the farm area where the horses were roaming freely, and it was fun. It helped me become closer to the horses as well as experience horse therapy first hand.
Having these experiences and others, of course made me go through culture shock. I would become overwhelmed and judge myself constantly. But looking back at what I have accomplished, this trip made me realize I can conquer anything. I did not think I could go to Mexico because I was not fluent in Spanish- I went. I was disappointed about my Spanish level, but I improved. I thought I could work with horses, turns out I was afraid, but conquered my fear. In every instance, my fears and failures turned into positives and that is why this trip was so life changing. It helped me change my perspective and helped me see a lesson can be learned from every experience. Oaxaca was eye opening for me and I would love to study abroad again.