An Enriching Experience on my path to of Self-Discovery, September 26, 2018

By (Public Health, Brandeis University) - abroad from 06/16/2018 to 07/21/2018 with

IFSA: Merida - Medical Spanish and Public Health in the Yucatan

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
Definitely! I gained exposure, broadened perspective, respect, historical understanding and more confidence.

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? 0-2 weeks

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

Very easy to understand instructors, and they're willing to explain things in english. however, if you're looking for more language intensive practice that would have to be done on your own.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

Diana, Cintia and the IFSA Merida Office were awesome and extremely involved. I really felt like they had my best interest at heart, and knew i could go to them with any problems. The program ran smoothly thanks to their excellent organization and kind leadership. I was also impressed by the professionalism, responsiveness and risk management exhibited by the director and program staff.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

The house was beautiful, comfortable and conveniently located. I really enjoyed my host mom, and the conversations that we had together over meals or coffee. I did feel that because of the generational and cultural differences between me and my host mom, there were some restrictions that made the living arrangements a little tense. Regardless, the experience taught me that host family style living was less conducive to my lifestyle than I expected. It was a challenge to transition from my normally rather independent and unsupervised life to a more traditional lifestyle where i felt nervous about exercising certain freedoms.

* Food:

The food was awesome, and way less spicy than I thought. I really enjoyed the various combinations of international and traditional cuisine that my host mom would prepare for me. My favorite meals were a fish from Vera Cruz with a red sauce and a lebanese dish, both of which i've forgotten the name to. One reason that food became an influential part of the experience was because of the dialogue that happened at the table. It either would be about learning vocabulary for the ingredients in the dish, or a discussion about the historical and cultural significance of the dish. (high population of lebanese immigrants, seafood and agricultural industries of the various states/regions.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

mostly

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

* Safety:

I found that the people in merida to be extremely friendly, and even walked home one night by myself. I know this is ill-advised, but truly a testament to the safety. Uber, and the buses make transportation a breeze and really help encourage students to explore the city.

If you could do it all over again would you choose the same program? No

I would pick a program with a slightly different academic focus, but the program showed me where my interests were so it's kind of a catch 22.

Finances

* Money: How easily were you able to live on a student's budget?

(1 = not very easy/$200+ on food & personal expenses/week, 2.5 = $100/week, 5 = very easily/minimal cost)

I personally budgeted a lot of money for food, especially smoothies. I also really wanted to travel and explore as many places as possible so I spent close to $70 a week, and the conversion rate really helped! There are so many affordable things to do in Merida that if you had to you could probably spend way less, it's all about what you want to do.

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? 70
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? save money beforehand, take cash to convert for the first couple days while you get settled. Lot's of places take card though. I think you should convert a little as you need it, and ration that amount out per day. Try to use public transportation instead of ubers, and don't be afraid to haggle (situation specific)

Language

* Did your program have a foreign language component? Yes
How much did the program encourage you to use the language?

0 = No encouragement, 5 = frequent encouragement to use the language

My host mom only spoke to me in spanish, but the academics could have encouraged us to use our language skills a little more.

How would you rate your language skills at the beginning of the program? Intermediate
How would you rate your language skills at the end of the program? Advanced
What was the highest level language course you had completed prior to departure? 111
How many hours per day did you use the language? 10+
Do you have any tips/advice on the best ways to practice the language for future study abroad participants? Uber, taxi conversations are actually a really good time to practice. The leave and you don't have to see them again, less pressure. It is a similar structure every time, so you have an idea of what to expect. You can steer the conversation to a topic of your interest by asking a question. I think remembering that you're more critical of yourself than others are. Like you wouldn't make fun of someone with less than fluent english, it's the same concept. Also, really try to look at sentence structure and syntax in your language to better learn how to form sentences. Repetition, and ask for words all the time.

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Host Family
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Host Family
* Who did you take classes with?

Select all that apply

  • Americans
About how many local friends did you make that you will likely keep in touch with?

A Look Back

* What did you like most about the program?
  • weekend excursions
  • location
  • spanish language
* What could be improved?
  • food
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? Be more open to being a part of a family, that will be different from your own.

Reasons For Studying Abroad

To help future students find programs attended by like-minded individuals, please choose the profile that most closely represents you.
The Nearly Native or Trail Blazer
Craving the most authentic experience possible, perhaps you lived with a host family or really got in good with the locals. You may have felt confined by your program requirements and group excursions. Instead, you'd have preferred to plan your own trips, even skipping class to conduct your own 'field work.'