Oaxaca Gateway Program: Best thing I have ever done! Past Review

By (Hispanic-American, Puerto Rican, and Mexican-American/Chicano Studies., Pacific Lutheran University) for

Pacific Lutheran University: Oaxaca - PLU Gateway Program in Mexico

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
My study away experience really changed my future plans completely. I have an entirely new awareness and perspective on social justice issues in Mexico and Latin America and the impact that our own US policies have on Latin America. I am so much more sensitive to the issue of immigration now, and I hope to end up working on changing immigration policies in the US someday. But first, my plans are to go back to Oaxaca and teach English for a year after I graduate from PLU. Besides impacting my cultural awareness, I also improved my Spanish skills greatly, which was one of my main goals in going on the trip.

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? 2 weeks - 1 month

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

I thought there was a perfect balance with the class workload because there was enough that we learned a lot, but not too much that it took away from our time and experience of being out in the real world while we were there. The ICO is a great school and the teachers are fantastic!

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

I was very impressed with the organization of this program. It is so smoothly ran and well established that there were never any problems. The PLU/UPS faculty that lead the program and the ICO staff in Mexico work extremely well together to make it the best trip possible for every student. I felt very supported and taken care of, but at the same time encouraged to step out of my comfort zone and experience new and wonderful things and people.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

I was always treated as a member of the family. They were the sweetest family and I felt really blessed to be with them for those four months and I am still in contact with them today (and plan to see them again in Oaxaca). I was provided with my own bedroom that was very clean and even my own bathroom, too. My host mom made me breakfast and lunch every day and told me that I was welcome to come into the kitchen and get a snack anytime I wanted. They went out of their way to make me feel comfortable and welcome. My host brother was my age so I was able to meet some other Oaxacans my age and now have some really close Oaxacan friends that I still am in contact with. I didn't have to buy anything for my stay in the house except my own shampoo, soap, etc. Everything else, even a towel, was provided for me.

* Food:

I loved the food and I didn't have any dietary restrictions, but as far as I know, all the families were extremely willing and helpful to those students who did. One of my favorite places to go get late night dinner was at the taquerias (taco stands) accross from the ADO bus station. Tacos al pastor-- YUM!! But I tried all kinds of restaurants while I was there and it was all delicious.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

We went to the beach, Chiapas, Mexico City, Puebla, and to Teotitlan (a pueblo in Oaxaca) and all of those were such great experiences. A few of us went back to Mexico City for another weekend because there is so much to see there that we didn't have enough time the first trip. I loved going to all the pyramids and archeological sites. As for cultural events, Dia de los muertos was amazing!! The whole city was decorated for it and it was so incredible-- definitely one of my favorite parts of the trip.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

* Safety:

Everybody at home was really concerned with Mexico's safety at the time, but when we got there we realized that Oaxaca city was very safe. I never had one problem with crime while I was there. The thing is, you just have to have common sense (i.e. don't walk around alone at night, don't walk around with valuables and make yourself look like a target). Just look like you belong there as much as you can. As for health, I was fine most of the trip, but towards the end of the trip I did get a parasite from something I ate. It was fine, I just went to the doctor that was recommended to use on our trip and he spoke English and it was very clean. He gave me antibiotics and I was completely fine after that. I think it cost me $30 at the doctor and then I had to pay for the antibiotics at the pharmacy, but the good thing is that I didn't have to wait for them to fill the prescription because the medications are on the shelf there.

If you could do it all over again would you choose the same program? Yes


* 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)


* Did your program have a foreign language component? Yes
If applicable, to what degree did your living situation aid your language acquisition?

Language acquisition improvement?

Most people did not speak English, so I used Spanish most of the day every day. Basically only other ICO students spoke English, but with the students on our program we all tried to only speak Spanish. All of the teachers and families only spoke Spanish to us even if they knew some English because they were encouraging us to speak Spanish all of the time. My host brother did speak English, which at times was helpful, but I usually spoke to him in Spanish and he spoke to me in English-- that way we could both practice.

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Host Family
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Host Family

A Look Back

* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? To be successful in this program, a student really should be at a moderate to high level of Spanish proficiency. I say this because the transition is a little intense at first, and it helps so much if you are able to communicate with your host family and the faculty at the ICO. I think that anyone who is interested in social justice issues, Spanish language, and learning about another wonderful culture would be great for this program!