Introducing Oaxaca

This summer I will backtrack a bit and write about my memories of studying in Oaxaca, México.

My story on the way to Oaxaca is an interesting one. In the spring of 2013 I decided that going abroad for May Term (an intensive short term that comes after the spring semester at Mary Baldwin College) would be my only chance to ever go abroad. It’s quite ironic considering my upcoming plans.

Anyway, I thought that this was my one and only chance, so I applied for scholarships in the fall of 2013 and crossed my fingers. In October, I received an tantilizing email that I was a finalist for the Melissa Mitchell Award. A few more days, and I found out that I had won the scholarship! Shortly after, I paid my deposit for the trip. That, my friends, is the moment that set me on my path to being a world traveller.

Over the spring semester I continued my Spanish courses with Dra. Patiño, who would later lead my trip. We had several sessions before leaving in which we talked about the places we would visit, the school we would attend, and the things we should pack.

I have to say, if there is anything I really learned with these predeparture sessions, it is that I need to pack carefully. In several ways, I should have packed better. Let me break it down for you into a few lists:

Top 3 Things I Packed Right:

  1. Spanish dictionary. This was incredibly useful for doing my homework in the evenings. While it never actually left the home of my host family, I used it a lot. I would recommend that anyone studying a language intensively take a language dictionary at least for homework purposes.
  2. Kindle Fire. I didn’t take my bulky laptop. Instead, I opted to just take my Kindle along for internet purposes, mostly to let people at home know I was still alive via Facebook. If you’re only traveling for a short period of time, don’t worry about a laptop. You won’t want to spend time in your room anyway!
  3. Side Bag. Bringing a small side bag to hold all of my important things as I walked across the city and went on day excursions was incredibly useful!

Top 3 Things I Failed to Pack:

  1. Motion sickness medicine. I hadn’t been motion sick for quite a while, and from what I could remember about flying, I thought I could handle it. Wrong. Flying for multiple hours at a time is much different from flying for just an hour. Not only that, but the turbulence going into Oaxaca was insane. If this isn’t enough to convince you, just think about the mountain roads you might drive for sight-seeing. Bring medication.
  2. A Towel. This seems like a weird one, but our host mom did not supply towels. Thankfully, my roommate had brought two and allowed me to borrow one until I purchased my own. When I went to Northern Ireland, I brought two and was quite glad that I did.
  3. A notebook. I did bring my journal to write down what I was doing each day, but I really needed a proper notebook for notes and homework during the day at the school. The first class I didn’t have anything and luckily the German next to me gave me a few sheets from his notebook. If you’re going to be taking classes, be prepared for the possibility that you may not have time to get a notebook before your first class, especially if said class is the day after you arrive.

Finally, with suitcases in hand, I waited at my dorm doors for the ride that would take the lot of us (six students and our professor) to Dulles International Airport. From there, we flew to La Ciudad de México (Mexico City), where we had our short layover (seems to me that airport delays are not as common in Mexico; we even had an early flight on the way home). In the next post I will pick up on our flight into Oaxaca.

Mountains in Mexico. taken from the plane.
Mountains in Mexico, taken from the plane.



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