Saturday March 18, 2017 seven SEM students had the opportunity to travel to Cholula, Puebla, Mexico organized and led by SEM Spanish teachers Paula Acosta and Gabriela Lyons, on an eleven-day cultural immersion and community service program held by Enlaces Comunitarios Internacionales, A.C. This organization focuses on promoting sustainable living and community engagement within their local community. The trip immersed the students into Mexican culture and served as an eye opening experience for each of them as they faced difficulties becoming acclimated to both the language and lifestyle differences.
From the start of the trip the students faced challenges with communicating while they acclimated to using Spanish regularly. The first challenge came directly after they made their way through customs and attempted to find something to eat in the airport food court in Mexico City. Fatima ’17 and this reporter decided to order tacos from one of the stands and they were excited to finally put their years of Spanish to use. The two of them nervously approached the stand to order food; however, the woman at the stand had a soft voice and talked very fast which made it difficult to understand her. Fatima said “It was a shocker because we are so use to people speaking in Spanish to us slowly.” The experience was nerve racking but helped Fatima and the other students adapt more to speaking Spanish in a real life setting.
The highlight of the trip for the students was a trip to a shelter facility for migrants traveling to the United States. The students had the opportunity to speak with the people traveling and hear their stories first hand. This experience immersed the girls into the real lives of the traveling migrants and offered a new perspective on individuals who tend to be incorrectly stereotyped within the United States. The student’s time at the shelter served as a truly eye-opening experience for each of them. The valuable lessons and stories that the girls heard were irreplaceable. Michaela Yonkman ‘17 reflected on her experience at the shelter by saying, “We were met with the stark harshness of reality that tends to be forgotten by most.”
The students overall felt that they had a positive experience in Mexico and managed to overcome several linguistic and cultural differences along the way. The trip will most likely continue in the coming years and upon her return, Fatima happily advised underclassmen to take the opportunity when it’s given and to keep an open mind when considering the trip. “It was an unforgettable trip. I had the opportunity to spend time outside of my comfort zone and experience a new cultural lifestyle.”