I was packed for my study abroad program to Mexico two weeks in advance. Ready to head off with the ASU: Spanish Language and Mayan Culture in Yucatan summer program to further my Spanish minor.
I had separated all my things into neat little labeled baggies and printed a few lists of the places I wanted to see and the things I wanted to do when I got there. I was ready, but I had to get there first. When the day finally came, I missed my first flight. My classmates and my instructor were halfway to Houston for the connecting flight we were supposed to catch together and I was still in one hundred and ten-degree weather. Unfortunately, there were no more flights to Houston that day, so I caught the five o’clock flight to California and then from there, to the Mexico City International Airport.
Fast forward to the Mexico City International Airport, which my instructor had explicitly mandated that I not leave for my own safety. Needless to say, I spent about six hours waiting for my next flight while scanning the terminal in paranoia. At some point, I had stopped scanning and dozed off to sleep. I had missed my second flight…and this time, no one spoke my language. What was I supposed to do? How was I going to convey that I had missed my flight and needed another? Did I look as lost and hopeless as I felt?
I’ll admit that at this point, my Spanish was pretty limited. The whole reason for this trip was to improve my Spanish skills, but I figured I was already in Mexico and was just getting an early start!
So I blinked back my tears, fixed my makeup, said a little prayer and struggled my way through the airport for two more hours as I ran back and forth from terminal to terminal. I finally made my way onto my new flight that took me to the next big adventure and I breathed a sigh of relief.
Landing in Merida and meeting my host family was almost as incredible as the flight there. I met a new friend on the plane I wasn’t supposed to be on, in a seat that I wasn’t supposed to sit in. His name was Gilberto and he was traveling to Merida for a new job. He practiced his English while I practiced my Spanish the whole way to Merida. I landed and saw my host family waiting for me and practically fell into their arms out of both exhaustion and excitement. At that point, I couldn’t stop speaking Spanish! I raved about my crazy airport adventure all the way home and my host parents were very impressed.
When I got to my new temporary home, my host mom asked if I wanted to go to El Centro, the popular town square and my soon-to-be favorite place in Merida.
I had hardly slept or eaten in the last ten hours, but I didn’t want to stop! We ended up meeting some other students and exploring the beautiful city of Merida and I could not have been more excited for the next five weeks in Mexico. The moral of this story is that being prepared is important, but that being open and determined is what will make or break your experience abroad.