The Most Educational Semester of My Education

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Eugene Wickett
Fourth-year, Industrial Engineering

Like most students planning for study abroad, I had very high aspirations. For me, my dream was to travel to Argentina. Rolling mountains and valleys, the romance of Buenos Aires, and an unending supply of bovine products? How could anyone want for anything else? Plus, I was ecstatic about the possibility of avoiding the dining halls for one semester. But it was not meant to be.

Ultimately, I ended up in Monterrey, Mexico, as my study abroad destination. To be perfectly honest, I was more than a little disappointed. Hailing from San Diego, “Let’s go to Mexico” was by no means an uncommon phrase of my high school years, and the prospect of going to a country bordering the United States fit a rather underwhelming definition of the term “abroad.”

Before I knew it, I was, alone on the outskirts of some city in the heart of Mexico. A feeling much like panic overcame me, as I realized that I might have made a disastrous mistake. What if the school misplaced my name, and didn’t know I was arriving today? What if someone starts speaking to me in Spanish? I was suddenly out of my element, and my heart raced.

Fortunately, I made it to the “dormitorio” of Monterrey Tec via a ’78 Volkswagen taxi, and my fears vanished. My amiable taxi driver jumped at the opportunity to practice his English, and we had a wonderful conversation about our favorite Tijuana taco shops, in addition to some Monterrey recommendations that soon became my dinner spots of preference. When I confirmed my class registrations, everybody patiently aided me through the Spanish segments. My student “buddy” greeted me with a very strange and delicious spicy ice cream. And on my first night in Monterrey, I had my first six-peso taco, and all qualms were released.

By the end of the first week, in addition to learning that the cheek is the best part of a cow, I realized that most of my assumptions about Mexico (and the world) were incorrect. Somewhere in that short length of time, I discovered that the people of Mexico were just like the people of the United States - hard working, fun, and so very generous. Later on, when I volunteered some time teaching English to poor children, I was amazed by how much food their parents and grandparents insisted I eat. Nothing is as moving or enlightening as being the benefactor of generosity of those who have so little.

Over the course of the next four months, I took part in the usual once-in-a-lifetime abroad opportunities - I climbed some mountains, celebrated Mexican independence in Mexico, met a girl, and visited temples that were thousands of years old. But aside from those important memories, my main takeaway from Mexico was that people are people. The citizens of all the exotic countries of the world are just like Americans in so many ways - they want to work, eat, and be merry. I never quite appreciated the similarities (and differences) until I studied abroad in Mexico - for me, going abroad is the only way to learn such a lesson. Hopefully, all Georgia Tech students will get the chance to learn lessons abroad, in what really becomes the most educational opportunity of a lifetime.


  • Workflow Status: Published
  • Created By: Rachael Pocklington
  • Created: 05/03/2009
  • Modified By: Fletcher Moore
  • Modified: 10/07/2016


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