Today, in celebration of Reach the World’s fifth annual Traveler Talk event, we are sharing an excerpt from Fulbright English Teaching Assistant (ETA) to Mexico Sarah Owens’ online journal describing her initial experiences of settling into her new life as an ETA in Mexico. Sarah is also a current participant in Reach the World’s Traveler correspondent program, which through a partnership with the Fulbright U.S. Student Program, connects U.S. elementary and secondary school classrooms to ETAs during their grants, and helps students and teachers to develop the knowledge, attitudes, values and thinking skills needed for responsible citizenship in a complex, culturally diverse and rapidly changing world.
My room in Tula now feels a lot more like home. I moved into a building near my university almost five months ago. The building is called a “hotel,” but many people rent rooms like an apartment building. I have my own bedroom and a connected bathroom, which I like because it makes me feel like the room belongs to me. I brought photos and decorations from home to remind me of my friends and family. When I get ready in the morning, I look at a photo of my sister and me from when were six and three years old. This keeps me from feeling homesick during my Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship to Mexico. Being homesick is when you miss being with your family and your friends in your hometown. If you’ve ever gone to a sleepover or an overnight camp, you might have experienced homesickness.
Something I really like about where I live is that university students also rent rooms in the same place. The people who rent rooms share a living room and a kitchen. These areas are our “common spaces.” Since there are other students here, there are people to talk to when I get home from work. I am used to living with other people since I lived in the dormitory when I was in college. Having other people living nearby makes it easier to make friends.
Luckily for me, assistant English teaching at a university provides a lot of chances to meet new people.
The students and professors that I work with are very kind and I like talking to them. They give me advice about almost everything. After talking with new friends, I knew the best places to buy fruits and vegetables and where to do my laundry.
I have also met people who live in Tula and do not work or study at the University of Tula-Tepeji. One woman I met works at a tortilla shop in the market. Her name is Alejandra and she showed me how to make tortillas. This experience made me feel connected to my new community. I have also gotten in the habit of buying fruit every morning. There is a couple who has a fruit stand across the road from my house, and I always cross the street to say “hi.” They sell sliced melon, oranges, jicama and papaya with lime juice and chili. It is delicious! Since I live in a smaller city, I see many of the same people every day. I like that I am beginning to recognize faces and have people to wave to as I walk through town.
Moving to a new place can be challenging, but also rewarding. It might not be easy speaking Spanish everyday and adjusting to a different culture, but I am happy that I get to learn about a new country and meet new people. Everyone I’ve met has contributed to my experience working and learning abroad. It is good to remember that you can learn a lot about a new place just by talking to other people. Just as my room here feels more comfortable, Mexico is beginning to feel more like home.
Are you a Fulbrighter who is local to the New York City area and interested in attending tonight’s Reach the World Traveler Talk event at 6:00 p.m. ET? Click here to learn more.