In college, I spent a mini-semester studying and living in Guadalajara, Mexico. In addition to learning the Spanish language and Mexican culture, I learned so much about myself in 3 short months.
I arrived at the airport with my host family’s address on a slip of paper and absolutely no idea how to tell the cab driver how to get there in Spanish or English. I took Spanish, culinary, and dance classes at the Universidad de Guadalajara. Though I struggled with a fear of sounding stupid and making mistakes, I got lots of practice by immersing myself within the lives of my host family. From attending every birthday gathering or celebration, to going out to bars, to dancing at nightclubs, my confidence improved. By the end of my stay, I was able to hop in a cab and give directions like a local to several destinations in Guad and the surrounding areas.
It was in Mexico that I learned to enjoy my own company. Not because I didn’t have any friends, but because I eventually grew tired of waiting around while other people decided what they wanted to do. When my plans to visit Puerto Vallarto with a group of friends fell through one long weekend, I had finally had enough. I re-packed my bag and hopped on a bus to Manzanillo early the next morning for my first solo getaway. I befriended some locals (or maybe they befriended me?) at my hotel and spent my time practicing Spanish, eating ice cream, and getting to know people as I toured the beautiful port city. After that trip I realized I didn’t need the group to have fun. Want to catch a movie, but everyone else is still in class or at work? Go by yourself. Interested in visiting the tianguis (open air market) in Tonala to pick up some hand-crafted pottery, but most of the group wants to stay at home to study? Take your market bag and get going!
I left Mexico thinking that one day I might want to be an expat. The idea of experiencing another way of life still intrigues me now, so I definitely want to live abroad. I will make this happen in 2013.