A year has passed since I completed my Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship (ETA) in Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico. As I reflect on this anniversary, I recognize that my Fulbright year had an immense impact on my personal and professional direction. I thought I knew what to expect from my Fulbright year. After all, I was a former student of International Relations, a USC Global Scholar. I had already lived abroad as an exchange student in Paris, France, and had spent weeks volunteering in Mexico and Peru. I knew what to anticipate from a year abroad, right? It turns out that I was very wrong. Every single day of my Fulbright award brought something new and unexpected. Never did I expect to have such an eye-opening experience. From the first day at orientation meeting my fellow Fulbrighters, to forming friendships with my mentors at the Universidad Tecnológica de Jalisco, to meeting local tapatíos (a word to describe the people from Guadalajara), I created lasting memories.
In Guadalajara, also considered “the Silicon Valley of Mexico,” I encountered a forward-thinking city buzzing with technology and innovation. This is not exactly the vision I had of Mexico before arriving. All I knew of Mexico was folklore, border towns, and tourist resorts. I was surprised that so many young Mexicans I met were engineers, techies, and self-described ñoños (nerds). They worked at HP, Intel, Oracle, or a slew of Mexican startups like VoxFeed and CityDrive. It also seemed that everyone I met pursued passion projects outside of their 9 to 5 jobs, such as running Airbnbs and online businesses. I wanted to emulate these intelligent, proactive, and hardworking people in my life.