If you’ve taken the chance to read my last blog, “How Was Mexico,” you know that since I have been back from Mexico, I have been thinking about a more vital question instead: “What Next?” And this is what I hope to somewhat answer in this blog post.
I’d like to first start off by thanking my professor, Doctor Edna Velázquez, for making this question the theme of our journal entries and final presentation. If it wasn’t for her it’s possible that I would have completely skimmed over my study abroad in Mexico as just another great experience in life, without seriously considering it’s importance in relation to the rest of my life afterwards. Yet, because of her one question I have spent a lot of time trying to figure out how I will proactively use my experiences in Merida as a growing point for my future.
In my blog “Difficult Discussions” I talked about a few conversations I had with some of my peers and the things I learned from these discussions. The conversation about my lack of pride for being a citizen of the United States, however, has probably been the most thought-provoking. It has caused me to realize that in order to change this feeling, I must help my nation work toward a future that I can be proud of. I am happy to report that, since this realization, I have fixed my voting registration information so that I can vote in upcoming elections, including the presidential election in 2016. In the past I noticed the problem of younger generations not showing up to the polls and never really thought much of it, but now I recognize that if I want something to change in this country then I need to represent that change in the form of a vote. So now the rough part is upon me as I work toward educating myself on a variety of issues. I’m also looking for ways to become an activist for issues that don’t always rely upon a vote or aren’t on that level yet.
After reflecting on my time in Merida, I also realized that what I enjoyed the most was working with organizations that gave back to their communities. For instance, I enjoyed shadowing the members of UNASSE who educated the youth about sexuality and self-esteem, and I enjoyed working with the community group in Komchen which educated people in the neighborhood about diabetes and healthful lifestyles for people dealing with the chronic disease. This has reinforced my desire to give back to my own community. So far I have spent my time researching ways to get involved in my community and I am interested in taking part in a community council. I am also applying for a job at the LA County Counsel, which will allow me to learn about the legal side of changes occurring in my community and will hopefully give me the opportunity to eventually influence such changes if I am offered the position.
Lastly, my study abroad experience has also influenced me culturally. Being in Mexico consecutively for six weeks made me notice how little I knew about my Mexican heritage; I knew little about Mexico’s history, little about the history of Chican@s in the United States, and only a tad bit more about current Mexican-U.S. relations. This discovery made me a bit sad, but it has only made me acknowledge how important it is for me to educate myself about these areas, especially if I want to make a difference in my community which is primarily Chicana. Therefore, I am taking a class in the fall about the role of Mexican-Americans throughout U.S. history, in order to being learning more about my heritage. Also, I hope to keep on continuing my practice of the Spanish language so that I can stay more connected with the Hispanic community as a whole. Throughout my life, I have struggled to understand my roots because I lacked a connection of language between myself and the older generations. My time in Merida, however, gave me the opportunity to practice my Spanish and improve my confidence in speaking the language. I hope that being back in Los Angeles I won’t regress into relying solely on English, but will continue with the progress I have made with Spanish.
These may be just a few things that I have taken away from my adventures in Merida, but I think they will be pretty important factors in my future to come. I am grateful to have had this opportunity to learn more about myself, learn more about the country my family is from, and to gain the chance to use this study abroad experience to shape the rest of my life. I thank the Jennings Family Brave Companions Fund for providing me with the scholarship I needed to embark on this journey that will last a lifetime. And again, I thank Doctor Velázquez for asking me to think critically about my experiences in Mexico so that I ensure they last beyond a simple moment in time.