- by Jenna Follin
There are absolutely no words available to describe this amazing experience!
Departure day was one of the longest days I've ever had. My flight left at 5:20 in the morning with a short layover in Phoenix and I finally landed in Mexico at around 3:00 (Mexico time). To say I was excited was a complete understatement. I was exhilarated and nervous; my knees were shaking, I had butterflies in my stomach, and my heart was racing. When I reached the doors that separated me from my host family, I could barely even think. I just stood there, staring at the doors. So many questions were running through my head: Will they (my host family) like me? Will I like them? Will we get along? Am I going to be able to communicate enough for them to understand me? AHH!
As soon as I walked through the doors I saw the smiling faces of my host mom and host sister holding the sign with my name on it, and all my worries slipped away. They immediately engulfed me in hugs and I could tell that they were just as excited and anxious as I. The drive to the house was a short one, which was such a relief!
Since I decided to email my host mom before departure, I already knew that I was going bowling with my host sister and some of her friends that night. I was excited to meet more people, but I was also really tired. After settling into my new home, my host mom made dinner then my host sister and I rested together in our shared room before heading out at around 10:00 to go bowling. We met up with three of my host sister's friends and I was happy to find out that it was cosmic bowling, so it just made the environment more fun. Communicating that first day was very difficult! There were so many times when I was asked a question and I could not answer. I was a bit embarrassed, but it just made me more motivated to listen and learn throughout the month.
My host family was such a blessing! I went from being a guest to a family member after the first day. They were so kind and welcoming. My host sister, Priscila, was the best sister anyone could ask for. We meshed so well together and had the same interests. We told each other everything. Don't even get me started on my host brother Samuel! Oh, boy! Let's just say he was exactly like a real younger brother. He could be sweet and loving, of course, but most of the time he was just a punk! He was still so fun to be around though. My host parents were amazing! Ana and David were so kind and treated me like their own. It felt really good to get parental love from people that were strangers just days before.
While in Mexico, we went and visited a lot of people and places. I met so many new people, I can't even count them. I met a HUGE portion of my host dad's side of the family. We went to Abuela's (his mom) house every Friday for dinner, and so did a lot of other people in the family. I met a couple of my host mom's sisters and we actually were able to go to Tecolutla, Veracruz with one of them. Which, by the way, was so awesome, but very HOT! Veracruz is so cool. The culture of the coastal state is so unique. One of the traditions was locals dancing in the streets. My host family and I got to watch some dances and my sister and I even joined in for a few songs! It was a really fun experience.
I fell head over heels in love with Mexico while I was there. It's not just a country I visited. I have family there now and a place to call home. I can honestly say that it was very hard to leave. The day I returned to the states was an emotional one. I grew so close to my host family that when we had to part, my sister, a cousin we spent a lot of time with (named Ely), and myself were in tears. It was difficult to transition back home to the US, but now I know that I will always have a place to turn to when I return Mexico (which will, hopefully, be soon).
A little piece of advice to new participants: Don't forget to open up. Take risks when speaking! It's the only way you'll be able to learn the language better. I learned that lesson really quickly! You have to remember that you're there to learn the language, and your host family will know that. They're not there to criticize, they're there to help you learn!
This experience will stay with me forever!