Now that time has passed since my cultural and language immersion experience in Querétaro, the value of my time abroad has become more apparent. I feel like a different person. Although I was strong and engaged in learning about life in other countries before my study abroad journey, I feel more confident in every aspect of my life and am more willing to seek other opportunities to learn about cultures other than my own. My “Ah ha!” moment following my time in Querétaro was about two weeks after I returned to the USA and a Mexican family came into the Office of Financial Aid at OSU and asked to speak to a staff member who speaks Spanish. The family was referred to me, and I was able to answer their financial aid questions in Spanish and have a brief conversation about life in Mexico. I impressed myself with my new conversational and cultural skills, and my coworkers said they could not understand what I was saying at all and were so grateful that I was there to assist the Hispanic family.
Since my return to Oregon, I have become involved with a local organization that supports the Latino community in Benton County, Casa Latinos Unidos. Due to my time studying and living Mexico, I feel even more motivated to be an ally to Latinos in Oregon and strive to continue my Spanish speaking. Without my experience abroad, I am not sure that I would have felt comfortable becoming heavily involved in a Hispanic space as a non-native speaker. While maintaining respect and an open mind, I now feel more adept at handling new cultural situations.
When people ask about my time studying abroad, I can say without hesitation that it has been one of the most transformative experiences of my life. While not every moment was easy or seemingly positive, the pros of the adventure far outweigh the cons. I highly suggest everyone spend time, energy and resources studying in another country because the depth of learning about navigating another culture that occurs cannot be replicated any other way.