Airport Culture Shock Jam Stebbins Language barrier Mexico Preparing to go Temple Summer

Travel Day Tacos

My friends and I preparing for our flight to Mexico by eating tacos and studying Spanish

It’s not that I would recommend an eight hour layover in a city where you don’t know anyone, but it has been an interesting experience. An opportunity to eat way-too-expensive (and inauthentic) tacos and reflect on how exactly this whole thing happened, if nothing else. If you had asked me this time last year what I would be doing this summer, my answer would have been working the same job in the same town I was born in and waiting for the semester to start up again. I don’t think I would have believed you if you told me that I’d be on my way to study history in Mexico for a month with some of my best friends. 

Honestly, even two months ago I might not have believed you. Even after I was accepted into the program and began planning for the classes and activities, there was always a chance that I wouldn’t be able to get on the plane and get here. I didn’t get my passport until two days before the absolute final deadline to confirm whether or not I was going. I’d applied several months earlier, but processing times and my own mistakes meant that I wouldn’t have gotten it on time at all. Thankfully, a friend recommended that I call a congressperson and ask for an emergency appointment. I was wary, because that seemed like a terrifying thing to do and I still don’t feel grown-up enough for that, but at this point I’d told my dad what the plan was and he’s never let me go back on a promise. So, after weeks of worrying and days of near-constant calls with a state representative, I got the appointment. I had my passport in hand just in time to scan it and confirm that I could, actually, for real this time, go to Mexico. It was super stressful and I wish I had applied for a passport with way more spare time. 

A map of Merida, Mexico in front of an article about traveling in Mexico

But I made it. Passport in hand, tacos eaten, and only a few hours left in a layover that felt like it would stretch on forever. As we get closer and closer to takeoff, I realize that I didn’t really process the fact that I’m going to Mexico for a whole month. It hit all at once today and I’m really, really excited– but also healthily concerned. I’ve never been to Mexico and now’s a great time to mention that I’ve never taken a Spanish class in my life. I’ve been trying to learn for a few months now and the program has a Spanish class (also, one of my friends knows quite a bit of Spanish), but it’s still a worry. For the last several hours, I’ve been frantically googling traveler’s advice and commonly used phrases. Preparing for culture shock is kind of a weird feeling– I had more culture shock moving to Philly from California than any other country that I’ve visited. But knowing that I’m doing something productive that will help me when I get there keeps me grounded and determined to work as hard as possible to understand the language and culture of Yucatan. 

The program I’m attending is about the history of colonialism in Mexico, specifically the Yucatan region, and I know that we’ll be covering a lot of very important topics. In order to truly understand what we’re learning, to appreciate the historic sites we’re going to visit, and to get the most out of this program intellectually and personally, I feel as though I need that background. Of course, I’m excited for the dance class and all of the fun activities we’re going to attend, but I also want to be a good guest in a beautiful country. I want to be able to talk to real people like a real person instead of asking everyone to speak English, and I want to be able to leave having gained a greater understanding of and appreciation for Mexican culture. So, for a few more hours, I’ll work on my conjugations and eat tacos.

If you want to see more study abroad stories, check out our collections on language barriers or overcoming culture shock and see how other Temple students have dealt with similar issues! 

A plane ready to take us to our final destination!

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