10 February 2015
“Usted no puede venir.” These were words that I did not expect to hear while at the host school in Mexico. Leading up to the trip, I had to make final preparations before leaving the country. Although it was a bittersweet time, leaving my family to journey to an unfamiliar place, I knew that I could not resist the golden opportunity ahead of me. I also focused more in Spanish class because I knew language would be vital part of the trip. My Spanish was not the best at the time so this made me nervous because I didn’t know if the family I would be staying with spoke any English. Although the director of the program assured us that not being fluent in Spanish would not so bad as long as one can break down sentences and try to get your point across. After hearing that, my nerves calmed down allowing for more excitement to fill my body.
In just a short time I would step foot on a new land and embarking on a new life experience. The first day in Mexico began to meet all my expectations. Greeted by our host students and faculty, fellow classmates and myself were excited to meet the people who we would be staying with for the next two weeks. The language barriers proved to be prominent from the start. The student I was to be living with barely spoke any English so I found it to be difficult to communicate with her. While everyone else were having wholesome conversations with their host student, I sat and just smiled at her as if I had a clue of what she was saying. The other students realized that we were having communication issues so those who spoke English doubled as a translator for me. The Mexicans were very polite and just as thrilled for us to be there as we were. They wanted to know all about America and the different things we engaged in. The abundance of questions started to make me a bit uncomfortable (I’m not a social person) and I find it rude to ask someone a lot of questions before really knowing them.
The trip to the host family’s house was one I would never forget. Leaving from the major city and arriving to what looked liked the Far East side hood of Indianapolis place me in state of mental shock. Never did I expect to subject myself to environment that I was so familiar with while in a different country. My expectations of living arrangement were what ones subconscious would call an utter disappointment. Although the area I would be staying in was sketchy, it allowed me to live within similar symbols and shared meanings, which allowed less paranoia about my surroundings (Winkelman 122). Even with the semi similar environment it was still at this time when I started to feel a sense of displacement. Although this started off being an exciting time, it also brought onto the surface feelings that I couldn't predict would happen. My experience can be explained using Denise White’s, Ph.D., model because it showcases multiple phases of my personal experience while being an exchange student and experiencing culture shock. Although I was initially excited and enthused to be in a new environment different than my own, which White describes as "stage one," this quickly declined as I entered into the next state of "irritability" when differences between customs and language became more evident, it started to hinder me from moving on to the next stage of "adaptation."
Although I enjoyed most of time in Mexico, I was often left alienated because of my living environment, and the social injustice that I experienced. For example, in regards to the living environment, American homes aren’t built with half the house outside; our homes are closed off and enclosed within four walls. I was not familiar with this way of living, and it often left me feeling unsure as how to behave to this situation that made me feel uncomfortable.
It is through events in life that shapes and molds us into who we are as people. As for me, Traveling to Mexico was one of those…