Angelina Marie Fernandez is a Lycoming College student in New York, she is specializing in Business and Economics. Nowadays, she is in her seventh semester in UPAEP and tells us about her experience abroad.
Her mom comes from the Dominican Republic while her dad comes from Pakistan. Therefore, since birth, Angelina has been surrounded by an international environment. Thanks to her grandparents from her mom side, Angelina developed a Hispanic attachment since her grandfather always told her about the life in a Caribbean country. Besides this, she always found out a lot of Dominican people while she was living in Brooklyn.
This is your last University year; how did you decide to come to UPAEP?
Since my first semester, I always wanted to travel and get to know China; since I study business, I knew that nation was important to me and one advisor suggested to talk to students who already had an experience abroad, ask them what to expect and what to do. However, once I talked to the international office, I realized that would be kind of tough because there were not too many English speaking people there and I never had Chinese lessons before. Therefore, I also thought about Chile, France until Mexico; and this last one convinced me because of my Spanish basic knowledge and having Mexican friends in the United States. It made me realize how much I wanted to get to know the culture a little bit deeper.
What was the reaction of everybody else about you wanting to come to Mexico and study here?
When I first told my grandma, she obviously got scared; she reminded me everything in the news; but I analyzed it and all this kind of stuff happens in different countries; violence, kidnapping and then I tried to calm her down and me as well. Taking precautions was always in my mind if I wanted to have the experience; if I had waited longer, it would have probably been too late to study abroad because of all of my last year projects.
Did you have any idea what Mexico was like?
Before coming here, my expectations were none; I felt pretty open mind about what Mexico could offer me. Of course, I felt scared because it is not often the opportunity that I have to travel alone; but I knew that I would be ok.
Coming here was pretty different of how my Mexican friends used to describe it since they have lived their whole life in the USA. I was fascinated and cannot even explain how much I like the culture. My roots are Hispanic and living in the United States was a strange feeling; however, once I arrived in Mexico, I was able to feel at home. I love the language and I feel so happy to be here.
What are the culture differences experiences here in comparison with your life in the United States?
There, you are always in a hurry and the time to relax is minimum. My chances to speak to my grandmother were always none because she cooks and then she goes to work. Once her day is finished, she is just too tired. In Mexico, no matter how chaotic your day is, there is always time to get together as a family and talk; this is something I really appreciate. I have a host family and the mom (Ivone) has grown up sons that no longer live in her house. However, when I arrived, there was a welcoming dinner and her sons and wives came. This made me feel loved because they really got interested in getting to know me and talk to me.
How did you find out about UPAEP’s opportunity for foreigners? Every fall semester they give you an accommodation week for free in order to study Spanish.
There was an email with all the information and it was really useful not only because of the accommodation sponsorship, but also because it helped me to get to know around, practice my pronunciation and meet more people before the semester starts.
What was your experience when you arrived to UPAEP?
My story has always been studying in small schools, even Lycoming is like that if you compare it to UPAEP; here the campus is huge and wide; besides, I see a lot of new faces every day. It is also strange form me that; even though there are too many people, most of the time they say hello to each other. In my Institution, almost everybody ignores the other person because they are always on their phones.
Mexico was surprising for so many reasons; especially my Mexican classmates; here they are very nice even though at the beginning, they had to adapt to me. Nevertheless, I had to adapt to them a little bit more. One example is that while I talk, I tend to hit a little bit the other people whenever I laugh or have too much trust; I learnt to control that in order to the others not too misunderstand me.
Another thing is that Mexican students are very respectful with their professors, especially when they talk; they students always ask for permission before entering a classroom and I see a very big difference between them and the USA. Besides, I really love the Mexican students because they are always looking forward to interact; and as a foreigner, it makes you feel welcome.
What course are you taking?
International business in the English language; although I regret this a little bit because since the professors are used to teach in Spanish, sometimes it is hard for them to find the right vocabulary in English. Person and truth is another course and my favorite because it teaches how to be a good human being and I practice a lot of Spanish.
Here I also study Chemistry and for many people is quite strange. Here in Mexico you only study what is related to your undergraduate program while in Lycoming, they suggest us to take a little bit of everything and it is also a requirement to graduate.
How has been your experience when it comes to Mexican gastronomy?
Once here, I heard a lot about how spicy food is. For me, that was not something new since my dad tends to cook very hot as well. Although is a little different, in Mexico the spicy stuff usually comes from the sauce and the chilies while in Pakistan comes more from the spices. My favorite food so far are grilled meat tacos, tamales a chipotle chilies; the least food that I like are chiles en nogada; I do not know if I would be able to eat it again. One of my culture shocks regarding the food was seeing street food vendors not wearing gloves while cooking; it scared me at the beginning. Nowadays I am pretty used to it and I see it as a normal thing.
Have you had the change to travel around Mexico?
I have been in Puerto Vallarta and Tequila town in Guadalajara; it was nice to learn the process of the Tequila drink. During September 15th, it was magical to see everything so alive and Mexican because of the Independence holiday. You can really feel the emotion. Now I understand even less why the United States celebrates May 5th; that date only belongs to Puebla and not the entire Mexican country.
Would you recommend to others to have an international experience?
Definitely! Although I would not recommend it to wait almost until the end because if you want to extend your studying abroad, it will not be possible since you have to come back and finish your undergraduate program. Coming back to my country will be tough because I have to hurry to finish all the projects that I have. I have to face my final exams, get a job and many more stuff that makes my future just a little bit scarier.
UPAEP and Lycoming are Institutions that I really suggest to go to; in general, studying abroad is a beautiful experience; it is so different, that it opens your mind, makes you grow up and understand why stuff tend to be the way they are.