Nnenna Umelloh - 2016 Program Participant

What inspired you to go abroad?

One of my goals is to become an international citizen. I believe experiencing and understanding various cultures is critical. I have always wanted to go to México; it just made so much sense, since I grew up in Texas. At the time, I was finishing my minor in Spanish and I was able to complete that minor in México, and solidify my fluency in Spanish during that time as well. I also wanted to increase my confidence in Spanish.

Tourist exploring Monte Alban, Oaxaca, Mexico
Monte Alban

Why did you choose Sol Education Abroad? What were some of your favorite parts about your program?

SOL is an excellent program! It's a wonderful value at a fair price. The program is the best bang for your buck. The staff is personal and the homestay experience is wonderful! They also give you enough space to explore on your own.

What did you like most about Oaxaca?

I love that the was very walker-friendly. You can get to where you want to go by foot and if you need to take a taxi, it's super cheap.

How difficult was it to communicate with locals?

Not at all. A few people had really thick accents and that made it difficult, but I was basically fluent by the time I got to Oaxaca, so communication was not an issue.

What made your experience abroad unique?

The fact that I was able to use my ability in Spanish to navigate my way through the country and with the people was amazing to me. I also made a point to go out of my way and meet more people independently. I loved learning more about the city and the country through the people.

What surprised you most about Oaxaca?

I am from Houston. The fact that the weather was remarkably like Houston was a pleasant surprise. I was also surprised how dehydrated I became. I should have drank more water. The amount of bugs also surprised me for a bit.

Ex Convento de Santo Domingo de Guzmán in Oaxaca, Mexico
Cathedral in Oaxaca, Mexico

How did local staff support you throughout your program?

The local staff was excellent. They were so accessible! They are always within reach in case anything goes awry.

What's one thing you wish you would have done differently?

I wish I went out on my own earlier and tried more often to build relationships independently.

Describe a typical day in the life of your program.

A typical day started with breakfast, then a walk to class. After class there was either a cultural event or free time to finish homework and explore the city.

What did you enjoy doing in your free time?

I loved walking around the city, setting up a little sign "I'm practicing my Spanish, would you like to have a conversation?", and see who would approach me.

What was the hardest part about studying abroad?

The hardest part is finding out where you are going and how to "blend in" as much as possible. It took me a while to find unique places to hangout and really enjoy my time in Mexico.

What was your accommodation like? What did you like best about it?

My accommodations were excellent. I loved my host family. I had my own room and bathroom. I liked seeing the little kids; my host family had two little boys and I loved them!

What is one thing every participant should know before participating in your program?

Bring a good pair of walking shoes and do not fall trap to herd mentality! Make sure to branch out from the people you travel with! Some people are under the impression that Mexico is inherently dangerous, but that's not true! It's only dangerous if you're stupid.

Girl exploring stone carvings at Monte Alban in Oaxaca, Mexico
Inside ruins

Do you have any other packing tips for students headed to Mexico?

Pack plenty of shorts and dresses and breathable clothes. As mentioned above, have comfortable walking shoes. Pack LIGHT, and only bring one suitcase.

What have been the biggest benefits of studying abroad for you?

I loved building relationships with other people. Also, I enjoyed learning more about other cultures and having my viewpoints broadened. It made me feel connected.

Now that you're home, how has your time abroad impacted your life?

I want to go back! I also want to travel to more places abroad. I am beginning to realize that the core values that keep a family together are the same regardless of what country we are in.

Would you recommend Sol Education Abroad to other students? Why?

YES! The program is an excellent value and the staff is wonderful. It is a safe way to be exposed to Mexican culture for the first time.

If you could study abroad again, where would you go?

I would go back to Oaxaca. I really enjoyed my time there. I would not mind exploring other states in Mexico, but I do not want to go to the super tourist-centric areas in México because it is not real Mexico.