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I Leave for Mexico One Month from Today

July 20, 2011

Listening To: “In The Aeroplane Over The Sea” – Neutral Milk Hotel, In The Aeroplane Over The Sea

My ticket has been purchased, and I will be arriving in Mexico on August 19th to study for four months. I have no idea what to think about this.

But it turns out a lot of other people do. When I first decided to study in Mexico, I was kind of underwhelmed with my decision — yes, Mexico is by far the best choice for me based on my majors at Gettysburg and what I’m interested in studying, but its proximity to the United States makes it seem a lot less “exotic” than some other places. Especially when four months before the decision I was planning on going to Rwanda, and two days before the decision I was planning on going to Brazil, both of which are countries that make other people exclaim various things like “Ohhhhhh wowwww,” whereas Mexico has a reaction similar to “oh”…with just one ‘h’.

The reaction is completely different when talking with the LIU community. My students can’t believe it every time I mention that I am going to travel to Mexico, and they delight in telling me every possible thing they can think of about the region to which I will be traveling and how many relatives of theirs I may run into while I am spending time there. My bosses and coworkers are proud of my decision and talk excitedly to me about their own experiences in Mexico and make sure to tell others about where I will be during the fall semester. The Bi-National teachers at Summer School, two individuals who teach a special class about Mexico and who live in Mexico (except for right now [ahorita], of course) were attempting to make small talk with me in our jumbled up mixture of any words in English or Spanish that we think the other one might understand, but as soon as I mentioned my upcoming adventures we were on common ground and they couldn’t stop talking. It still took us a long time to interpret what the other one was saying (I have never heard so many different ways to pronounce the word ‘dolphin,’ a word that one of the teachers was saying in English but I had to ask him to repeat about 14 times before I could comprehend what he was saying), but they were so excited to ask me what I would be doing in Mexico and tell me about what they know of the area.

They were excited not only that someone would be traveling to their home (kind of like how I feel when someone goes to New Jersey), but also that someone really and truly WANT to go to their home, even if that someone would feel like an outsider (now that I think about it, this also relates to how I feel about New Jersey…).

This makes me wonder, why are there so many negative connotations in the United States in relation to Mexico? Why do people who are not from Mexico or do not have relatives in Mexico seem almost uninterested in my study abroad plans? Why had I never considered until I started working with the migrant population in Gettysburg that Mexico might be the perfect place for me to study abroad? I hope that my time this upcoming fall will help me see what so many of my students, their parents, and my co-workers have seen, so that I can show my friends and acquaintances in the United States the same passion that the LIU community has for Mexico.

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