Since stepping foot for the first time on the Oregon State University campus, I knew one of my goals during my tenure was to study abroad. This goal finally came to fruition this summer as I boarded a plane for Querétaro, México to live there for 11 weeks. Although only 5 weeks have passed, I feel as though I have has so many unforgettable experiences and grown as a person. This is an experience I will never forget and will always look back on.
One of the most fulfilling facets of my journey so far has been living with my host family. I currently live with two women who are sisters, both of which spoil me beyond belief. Every morning I wake up to a full breakfast, and every night I go to bed with a full stomach. What makes this experience so meaningful, however, is not just the traditional plates or the comfy bed, but rather the cultural exchange I am engaging in with my senoras. I have learned so much about the culture I am partaking in just by conversing at the dinner table. Every day is a new topic—from the exhilaration of the World Cup, the significance behind certain Mexican holidays all the way to problems local government here is facing. It has also been humbling to view how many people in this country view the United States in its current political climate. I engage in this form of cultural exchange every day by sharing experiences, customs and issues that our communities are facing with my host mothers. This aspect of my study abroad has been incredibly eye-opening and fulfilling.
Despite the often funny miscommunications, speaking Spanish every day has been an unforgettable experience. My ability to speak has drastically improved since the beginning of the trip, and I am very excited to see the level I come away with when I return to the U.S. Although I have had some funny mishaps (I ordered a crepe with ice cream and plates (platos) instead of bananas (plátanos) one time accidentally), I have been pushed outside my comfort zone to speak in a language I am not completely comfortable yet. It is a very humbling, yet important experience to sometimes feel unable to express yourself through language. I believe everyone should have that experience. I am very grateful to be able to learn and increase my Spanish vocabulary and fluidity to a level which could not be achieved solely in a classroom at OSU.
Finally, partaking in new experiences around the city has been amazing. I have attended jazz festivals, climbed ancient temples, viewed historically famous art and wandered the streets of beautiful cities. Querétaro is a gorgeous city. The historical significance and modern living blend together to create a unique style of living. I have been able to visit the house of historically-famous members of the Mexican revolution for independence, and later that night attend a jazz festival in the same location. Walking the streets of the town with no real agenda is one of my favorite activities to do. I have always felt safe here, and am excited to get to know the city better my last six weeks.