International Affairs Scholars Mexico: An Unforgettable Experience

Rachel Pastor

Type of Project: Education Abroad

STEP Reflection

An international experience symbolizes an opportunity to see, to taste, and most importantly to live in a world previously unknown to oneself. From May 8th to May 28th, in hopes of engrossing my senses during an exploration of a foreign lifestyle, I travelled with approximately twenty additional Ohio State student’s on the International Affairs Scholars Program’s May Study Abroad to Mexico’s historical Yucatan peninsula. I had the opportunity to experience a culture like no other. I initially set out in hopes of seeing an ancient civilization’s ruins, tasting famous indigenous dishes, and experiencing the culture of the Yucatecan populace. In reality, I was able to achieve all of my hopes for my education abroad trip and more.

While experiencing and achieving in the Yucatan peninsula, I was able to develop a further understanding of myself and the Mexican world around me. I personally developed as an academic through my research regarding different facets of the Mexican economy as well as the societal impacts that play into the economy. In addition, my opinion of the Mexican economy and society changed. I initially believed that the level of globalization was not as large until I arrived in Mexico. Continuously studying and immersing myself in a culture that was not my own, this particular education abroad experience was even more of an enlightening opportunity than I expected. With my academic peers by my side, I was able to observe the striking similarities, differences, and interconnections you have encountered between the Yucatan peninsula and the United States of America. This opportunity to travel to the beautiful and historically-rich Yucatan peninsula provided me with the chance to compare the region to the United States of America.

Surprisingly, I encountered some notable interconnections, similarities, and differences. I found an example of the cultural interconnections on one of the first days of in the region. On May 10th, I was afforded the great opportunity to listen to native anthropologic professor, Francisco Fernandez-Reppetto, lecture on the topics of Mayan culture and the effects of different types of tourism in the Yucatan peninsula. Professor Fernandez-Reppetto enlightened my peers and I that “approximately seventy-five percent of tourist are from the United States of America” (Fernández Repetto).

Even though my research on the tourism industry had indicated that Americans had made up a large proportion of travelers to Mexico, I was surprised by truly how great the American population contributed to the Mexican tourism industry, especially in the Yucatan peninsula. Constructing upon the professor’s statistical based argument regarding the United States of America’s vital role in the tourism industry, I found additional interconnections between the two North American super powers in my free time. I had the opportunity to visit a Walmart Superstore in Merida and to study the amounts of Americanization and globalization in the retail industry. Even though the Walmart Superstore stocked a large amount of Mexican products, the majority of the products originated from American companies. I also observed the same pattern of an interconnection of American and Mexican consumerism in other stores within the peninsula such as, Oxxo and other stores in areas that were populated by tourists including Playa del Carmen and Cancun. Together, the lecture and my experiences in the retail industry provided me a great opportunity to see the interconnection between Mexico and the United States and further contribute to my academic view of the Americanization and globalization of Central and Latin America.

One area that I observed similarities and differences between the two North American super powers was discrimination. As a group, we studied how the current Mayan populace is discriminated against for speaking their native language, their past and current socioeconomic statuses, as well as their outward physical appearance. In comparison to the United States of America, the current African American populace is also discriminated against for their culture, past and current socioeconomic statuses, and their outward physical appearance. However, in contrast, in the Yucatan peninsula the people exploit the ancient Mayans for profit and continue to discriminate against the current Mayan population. For example, at the Hacienda Sotuta de Peón the current owners still employed the Mayan workers who once were practically enslaved on the proper as current, low-wage laborers on the farm. Additionally, at the Gran Museo del Mundo Maya, our tour guide also solidified the point that current Mayan populations are discriminated against while ancient Mayan populations are embraced. In the United States of America, the African American population was not a native populace, nor is their ancient civilization embraced.

Additionally, I was able to personally develop an ability to function effectively within the region despite some obstacles. While on the education abroad trip, I encountered some obstacles that afforded me the opportunities to adapt to the culture and eventually function effectively in the Yucatan Peninsula. I possessed hidden condition, a brain cyst. This past year I was diagnosed with an inoperable brain cyst that causes severe migraines as well as changes in speech and concentration. Even though I take medication to control the migraines and other side effects, the prescription affects the condition of my stomach and dietary habits. However, on the education abroad trip, I tried to embrace the Mexican cuisine to the best of my ability despite the meat, dairy, and egg heavy Yucatecan dishes. I attempted to the best of my ability to embrace the cultural experience of the meal. In addition, the language barrier was an opportunity to adapt to the culture. In high school, I had studied the Spanish language for five years. Yet, when I went to college, I did not take a Spanish class. When I arrived in Mexico, I found myself to be pretty darn rusty. The International Affairs Scholars Program’s May Study Abroad to Mexico’s historical Yucatan peninsula provided me an opportunity to improve my Spanish speaking skills and learn more about the culture through the language.

In the end, on the International Affairs Scholars Program’s May Study Abroad to Mexico’s historical Yucatan peninsula enriched my academic and personal experience as a student of the Ohio State University. Reflecting back upon my education abroad trip, I do not believe I would have been able to fulfill my academic and personal goals without this experience. Thus, I am forever thankful to the host institution, coordinators, and the Ohio State University for this opportunity.

Uxmal

Uxmal

Chichen Itza

Chichen Itza

Climbing a Mayan Pyramid

Climbing a Mayan Pyramid

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Isla Mujeres

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