The Arrival! The New Country and Feelings.


When I first arrived in Mexico, my emotions were in a sort of tug-o-war. I was actually pretty excited to finally be in a new country, especially that appeared very developed like Queretaro. Actually arriving in the city, I knew exactly what was coming, a whole new set of challenges to overcome: getting used to the new set of rules the country and its culture has, the use of a language that I was still learning to be proficient at, and just trying to find out where everything is.

Honestly, I am still frightened about being here in Queretaro. Despite knowing some Spanish up to this point, I still wonder if I will be able to make it. I am also worried about getting everything in order to survive and getting from place to place without getting lost. I know these kinds of things will go away with experience, but still, it is something totally brand new that I am not used to. I still have not seen everything yet, as well as gotten all the tools, and there is still time before classes start and I begin living with my host family. Beneath all the anxiety, I believe, deep down, I am awaiting everything with intrigue. As the photos show, Queretaro is a big place, and given time, it can be quite a journey unlike I have ever experienced.



Arrival in Querétaro

The first moments of my arrival in Querétaro before leaving the airport are very much a blur, and they went by far too fast for me to even consider taking pictures or making any really substantial observations. Between getting off the plane and going through customs and immigration, it was all very hectic and went by quickly, in addition to being very hazy in my memories even just a few hours later. I had a hard time getting myself to speak in Spanish to the airport workers, and I kept freezing up rather than actually talking to them. I couldn’t understand most of the instructions that they gave me for having my bags checked and who to go to, and I definitely felt very bewildered for the remainder of my time in the airport. The workers there at least seemed to be used to this, and were for the most part patient as they ushered me around the room.

a bird's-eye view

a bird’s-eye view

The most immediate behavior that I was faced with following immigration and customs at the airport was the taxi driving and traffic in downtown Querétaro. I don’t believe I have ever been as terrified in a car as I was today in that taxi. Not only are the streets extremely narrow with a lane of parked cars on one side and buildings on the other, but the drivers drive very fast and there are hardly any traffic signs and no traffic signals in that part of the city. Our taxi driver spoke calmly to us about the city and our trip while veering around corners and cars. The view from right behind the driver in the taxi van was especially frightening because it looked like we were going to hit every single thing in the field of view. I found it very interesting how he could be so casual and nonchalant while driving in such an erratic environment.

driving through the narrow streets and parked cars

driving through the narrow streets and parked cars

Since my arrival earlier today, I have seen much worse traffic and driving situations around the city, so clearly my initial terror was just naive. Additionally, I am warming up to speaking Spanish to the people who live here, and I can only hope it will get better. I am really enjoying the aesthetics of the architecture, the old streets, and the unique way that this part of the city is set up.

buildings and streets

buildings and streets

Arrival Post: Anny Sheie Queretaro

Going through customs/immigration was so different! I had never done it before but it wasn’t as stressful as I thought it would be.  We filled out some papers and pushed this “magical” button to find out if our bags would be searched or not. What came next was what surprised me. Behind the tinted glass doors were twenty or so people crowded up right near the door awaiting the arrivals from Houston. It was just a bit overwhelming to me because there were so many people. After the long flights and lack of sleep, the bright lights and the many people staring at us five Americans was just crazy.

The taxi ride was good. It was funny because I assumed all Mexicans would enjoy football (soccer) but my taxi drive said he didn’t. I guess my assumption was wrong.

He drove so fast and confidently! We came within centimeters of parked cars as we navigated the tight streets of downtown Queretaro.DSCF0138 DSCF0154

Our hotel is great! So nice and clean. Most people are very friendly and helpful The waiters are so patient while we try to figure out the menus and how to order our food.

Pre-Departure Post: Anny Sheie Queretaro

I am very nervous for my trip to Queretaro Mexico. I am bummed to be missing out on a whole month and a half of time with my family and friends. I am most nervous about not communicating well because I am not perfect at Spanish.

However, I am also so excited! I can’t wait to try new foods and experience new and different things.

I think that my host culture will be very inviting and welcoming but they might do certain things differently. I definitely understand that I have to take time to adjust to the different way they may do things.

I know that soccer is big in Mexico, so I guess that I think there will be a lot of soccer fans. Soccer fan with Mexican flag

I also think that the food will be a lot like the Mexican food we have in the


One last pre-conceived notion I have is that there will be a lot less diversity than we have in the states. I think that there will be people mainly of Mexican heritage. I anticipate that this will lead to me having feelings of being the odd one out when in public.

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First week abroad!

I am just ending my first week abroad in Siena Italy, and wow!  In just this week alone I have heard so many interesting historical stories, myths in this culture, seen historical places, and the culture it’s self.

In this post I really want to talking about the contradas.  Now you may be asking what is this; a contrada is an area in Siena.  Sieana is broken down into 18 different contadads each having their own mascots.  Some mascots are the eagle, tortes, snail, and the unicorn.  A persons contrada depends on where you are born and grown up.  When you are born you are baptized in a fountain in your contrada ( this is not a religious thing, more like a right of passage.)  Now I live in the Unicorn contrada. Each contrada has its own flag and colors.  Everyday you can hear drums from one of the contradas and see parades with flags, music, people following.  It is a big deal here.

So what is the point of this?  A big horse race called the palio will be happening on July 2nd and all the contradas, come and watch this race hoping for their team to win.  People carry flags of their contradas and wear their colors,

Each contrada  has an enemy, for example the eagles hate the fish.  People know when they step in a different contrada  because immediately the flags change and all the lamps and statues now match the new contrada.

I learned all my information by my school,  they took us on two all day tours of the city and its history.

Below I attached 3 pictures:  1, of the fish flag, 2. where two contadas meet, and 3, a parade( of the unicorn contrada :) )

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Cusco, Peru in four short days!

When I first imagined studying abroad I must admit I was thinking somewhere in Europe. However, through some exploration I began to realize that I wanted something out of the ordinary, somewhere I hadn’t gone, somewhere I could get lost, a place that I feel I can discover for myself. I then began my search for my host country. Peru, and more specifically Machu Picchu have always had a place on my bucket list. When I discovered that I could study in the city was is considered “the gates of Machu Picchu” and better my Spanish at the same time, I knew it was just my place.

My trip this whole time seemed so far off but yet here I am four days out. I would tell people my summer plans to study abroad but it became more real when I bought my ticket and even more real as I sit four days from leaving, writing this post. It also became more apparent that it was actually happening when I received the information about my host family yesterday. I am beyond excited to meet them and find it hilarious that my host mom and real mom share the same name and favorite hobby. To my advantage that habit just happens to be cooking!

Right now I look forward to the anxiety that airports bring, the lack of sleep when traveling, and the culture shock that comes with being in a new place for the first time. I look forward to these challenges because I know it will only build upon my character. However, that being said for those of you who know me, you know I hate missing out on things and I cannot help but feel a little sad for the experiences I will be missing out on here. Although, there are always more summers in Oregon to be apart of so I know I will get over it…probably when gazing at the ruins of Machu Picchu,if I had to guess.

Here’s to my summer 2015, may the odds ever be in my favor!

-McKenzie Stepper

Before I Go…. Queretaro!

Well, today is the day. My flight leaves at (yelp!) MIDNIGHT! As a person who goes to bed kinda early, this will be interesting. It doesn’t feel real yet. Today just feels like a normal day. There’s nothing to indicate that I am about to leave the country for 6 weeks…aside from the packed suitcases on my floor. I honestly don’t think it will feel real until I’m there, and even then maybe not for a little bit. I am excited but not quite sure what to expect. I think it’ll be fun and I’m ready to experience what living with a host family is like. I’ve been to Mexico once before, but that was a totally different situation, so I’m going in with an open mind! I hope I don’t miss everyone here too much, but I know I will some. I am pretty much ready to go. So here’s to my new adventure!

Pre-departure, the Alex Reimann edition

I think my host culture in Mexico will lead me to all kinds of new learning experiences that I never could have possibly learned here in the United States. Of course with learning, there is always the possibilities of making mistakes which is something I still need to learn how to handle, even now. The fact that it will be my first time in Mexico, so far from home, makes me very uncertain and nervous. I wish I felt more excited doing the program like everyone else is, but I think I might have to wait until I am actually there and in the routine before I can assure myself everything will be fine. Nevertheless, I am happy I have the opportunity to better my Spanish and to become immersed in an environment that places much importance into it. This will be a major experience in my life, and I know it will lead to incredible progress towards becoming more mature and more capable in the career path I have set for myself. With these improved skills, I hope to not just become a better Spanish speaker with better comprehension, but also one who is capable of communicating with the family that mostly knows Spanish (I was almost never able to do so before, since I only knew English). While many emotions may envelope me, I will still try my best to make this experience a positive one.

Images: Feelings of fear, of being overwhelmed with new challenges in a new place, and feeling of hope towards triumph.





I will be arriving in Querétaro, Mexico on Thursday the 25th. I am very excited for my first study abroad experience; I am most excited for the opportunity to immerse myself in the culture and the language, and I plan on exploring the city as much as possible. I want to do things I wouldn’t normally do, like attending community events and seeking out social interactions. This will be my only time studying internationally, and I fully intend to make the most of the trip and learn as much as possible. I am a little nervous that my Spanish language skills will not be sufficient at first, and I am also very anxious about meeting my host family for the first time. I am worried that I will not be able to communicate with them well enough when I am meeting them and becoming acclimated to the new environment. However, I look forward to improving my Spanish, and I know that forcing myself to speak as much as possible in appropriate situations will help me to reach that goal.

Right now, I am most excited for the moment when I first get off the plane and can begin listening and reading the language. I am also very excited for initially leaving the airport and getting to see the city; I plan on seeing as much as possible in the first few days that I am there, before I meet my host family and classes start. From the picture my host family sent me, I am particularly interested in the architecture, especially the churches. Based on what I’ve heard from past participants, I’m a little worried about my attire, based on reports of extra male attention. I want to dress appropriately for the culture but I also want to be comfortable in the heat. Overall, I plan on taking a lot of pictures so that I can keep and share memories from this trip.


old-church Soccer fan with Mexican flag


Hi, my name is Audrey Jones and I am studying abroad in Querétaro, Mexico as part of the five week ESOL program. I am going to be taking two 300 level Spanish language classes and an ESOL class while I am there. I am hoping to improve my Spanish language skills and learn about the culture there. I am an Education major and I am planning on getting my ESOL/Bilingual endorsement, so this trip will contribute to my program requirements. I am also getting my minor in Spanish, so I will be gaining credit toward that as well. Additionally, I will be continuing to take Spanish electives taught in Spanish once I return to Western Oregon University, so I hope that I will not lose much of the language skills I will hopefully acquire while in Mexico. Essentially, this program is very helpful for my professional and educational goals, and studying abroad anywhere has always been a personal dream for me.