Traci Garcia - 2014 Program Participant

Hiking in Hierve el Agua, Mexico

Enjoying the scenic valley while hiking in Hierve el Agua.

What made you decide to study abroad?

I chose to study abroad because I wanted to immerse myself in a language and culture completely different from my own. It is one thing to read about a culture, or study a language in a classroom, it is another to live the experience. Studying abroad was a perfect opportunity for me to round out my college education, and especially my study of the Spanish language.

What made you select Mexico?

I selected Mexico because I have a personal connection to the country through my heritage. My family is originally from Los Angeles, with my great grandparents emigrated from Mexico years ago. I wanted to understand a little more about my family and the culture and traditions they might have held. I believed it helped me understand my roots and role as an American today.

Surf Lessons in Puerto Escondido, Mexico

Attending surf lessons in Puerto Escondido

What about Sol Education Abroad’s program attracted you?

I specifically chose to travel with Sol Education Abroad because the program focused on Spanish-speaking countries exclusively. I am a Spanish minor and wanted to complete my course requirements while studying abroad, which I did. I particularly liked that the organization had such a passion for Spanish language and culture. I believe my experience and cultural immersion benefited from this passion.

What was your day like as a student in Mexico?

A typical day in Oaxaca, Mexico included the following:

1.   Head down to breakfast with my host family
2.   Get dressed and pack for school (remember the bug spray and sunscreen!)
3.   Walk to a local supermarket to meet other students before classes
4.   Walk several blocks to school
5.   Attend the first class (For me, this was a grammar class)
6.   Grab a quick snack during the break
7.   Attend the second class (For me, this was a civilizations class)
8.   Meet our intercambios after class (We practiced our Spanish while local students practiced English during this period)
9.   Walk home with other students and eat lunch with host family
10.  Rest before our afternoon activity with Sol 
11.  Participate in a variety of activities: tour a museum, take a dance class, attend cooking class, volunteer
12.  Return home and visit with other students and locals (possibly play a game of pick up soccer)
13.  Eat a light dinner with the host family
14.  Finally sleep after a long day

What was the biggest challenge you faced while studying abroad?

One of the biggest challenges I faced abroad was learning how to think and interact in Spanish on a regular basis. In class, it is very easy to switch into a Spanish mindset for one hour every other day. In Oaxaca however, many of the locals did not know English at all. I couldn’t revert to English when I couldn’t translate a word. I just had to hope someone had the patience to understand my broken Spanish! Although challenging, this experience was beneficial in the long run. I learned to care less about perfect grammar and learn more about fluidity in conversations in general.

Students holding stenciled street art in Mexico

Showing off street art designed in the stencil making cultural activity.

What advice would you give to other Xavier students interested in studying in Mexico?

I would tell other Xavier students thinking about studying abroad in Mexico to research the country before you travel. Often times, Mexico is only mentioned in the news regarding drug trafficking and violence. While these are realities, this is not necessarily a countrywide problem. Just like there are dangerous places in the U.S., there are dangerous places in Mexico. However, the state department publishes a list travel advisories for states and cities in Mexico. Oaxaca, for example, has no advisory in effect. I never felt threatened or endangered while living there. I think that students should always consider these facts and know the benefits of safe traveling to a cultural destination like Mexico.

Would you recommend Sol Education Abroad’s Mexico program to other students?

I would definitely recommend Sol to other students. The program was very straightforward and excellently planned. I knew exactly what classes to take and easily transferred the credits once I returned. My weekend excursions and cultural activities were all enjoyable. The group size was not too large, allowing me to meet and make friends with all of the students. The overall price was affordable and the summer program worked perfectly into my schedule. The experience as a whole was truly memorable, something made possible by the staff from the planning stages to my final goodbyes in Mexico. 

If you could go on another Sol program which one would you choose?

If I went on another Sol Education Abroad program, I would choose Spain. I have yet to travel to this country and am interested in its rich history and Arabic influences. Of course, I would love to see the beaches, try the food, and attend a Flamenco dance or two as well. If I had the time or the funds, I would definitely enjoy traveling there with Sol!