Those of you who are thinking of studying abroad may be wondering the structure of orientation. Personally, I was very nervous about attending the orientation. I was worried about understanding Spanish instructions, making new friends, and actually getting ready for the semester. It has been more than a month since I attended this orientation, but I am going to reflect on one of the first memories I have in Mexico.
Orientation Day 1
7am – I am not used to waking up this early, but the rich smell of coffee makes me happy and spoiled. My first breakfast in Mexico was a quesadilla made by my host mother.
8am – Some of the host moms that are hosting students in the same neighborhood had us meet each other so that we can go to the university together. There are six girls – two from Oklahoma, one from Austria, one from South Korea, and another student from Hope!
After being welcomed by orientation leaders (including Jose Espinosa who came to Hope as an exchange student in the Spring of 2019!), we were in a big room full of exchange students. This is actually my second time attending international orientation (the first one as an international student at Hope), but it is always amazing to see people from all over the world in one place.
12pm – We were distributed into more than 15 groups of about 5 students with a few orientation leaders in each group with a sacked lunch – a sandwich, an apple juice, potato chips, water, and an apple. Under the beautiful sun, we sat on the grass and tried to get to know each other.
12:30pm – A campus tour led by the orientation leaders. The main buildings are named A, B, C, and T, but the buildings are not in order. It is going to take me a while to get used to this campus.
1pm – Fun activities! We had multiple activity choices to choose from. I chose Latin Dance Class where we learned a little bit of Salsa. (I wish I took a video or picture, but I was too focused on dancing and following the steps that I forgot my job…)
2:00 pm – One of the leaders said “vamos a comer!” (“let’s go eat!”). I had been wondering why it said “Welcome Lunch” in the schedule when we already ate sacked lunch, but I guess they really meant it. This was probably one of the first culture shocks. People here eat lunch twice! I asked my orientation leader why we are eating twice and he was confused about why I was asking that question.
I went back home and had an amazing dinner made by my host mother. The delicious dinner was the curry of green pipian (paste of pumpkin seeds) and zucchini.
And this concluded the first day of orientation. So far, I have been eating a lot, enjoying the beautiful weather, and getting excited for the new experiences.
Orientation Day 2
Again, orientation started at 8:00 am and I am still not used to waking up this early. The neighborhood girls got together (of course, the first thing we did yesterday was to create a group chat) and tried to get to the university without google map. Walking to the metro station, getting on the metro bus, getting off at the 5th station and walking 20 minutes to the university. As a lazy college student being used to waking up just a little bit before classes started at Hope College, this is a pretty big adjustment. But the rich smell of coffee and Tamales for breakfast made my day going.
3:00 pm- After all the information sessions were done, I got invited to visit downtown and explore the city. One of the orientation leaders, Nacho, was being very sweet and entertaining us even though he could have gone home and rest.
Orientation Day 3
The last day of orientation. All the students who have host families met at 9:00 am (which felt so nice sleeping in for an hour) and learned about how to be in a Mexican family. Then we learned some cultural differences. Here are some of the cultural differences that we learned:
- In Mexican households, moms are the strongest. You better listen to the mom if she commands you to do something.
- Mexican moms like to feed their children. A LOT. It is okay to say you are full.
- Personal space does not exist in Mexico.
After signing some documents, the orientation was officially done. Well… that was all on the schedule.
What I did not know was that this was when the fun time started. There were two buses parked in front of the university for the exchange students. The buses took us to a city next to Puebla where we saw the world’s largest pyramid, and so many churches. We climbed up the pyramid, went inside the church, and walked around downtown Cholula.
And that concluded the international orientation of UPAEP. Regardless of all my worries at the beginning of the orientation, I am actually excited to start classes next week, and am ready for more adventures. Important information was repeated in English, there were multiple activities for us to make friends, and opportunities to experience some cultures of Mexico.