Why We’re Thankful for the 100,000 Strong in the Americas Grant

My travel day to Mexico was full of surprises. An unexpected flight change. A lack of WiFi in the Mexican airport. A house more colorfully decorated than I could have imagined. This exciting day was followed by an exciting school day where I was hearing a lot of Spanish and understanding only a little. So, after these two exciting-yet-draining days, we walked into school on the third day to an exciting-yet-comforting surprise: familiar faces!

Earlier this year in May, a group of Mexican college students and faculty traveled to Northwestern as part of the 100,000 Strong in the Americas grant. The grant provided us a weekend of academic conferences, focusing on obesity, a topic on which we have been studying in Mexico City.

So, the familiar faces seen on that third day in Mexico City were those of the Mexican students we met in May: Montse, Adolfo, Andres, Anneke, Hilda, and Fernanda.

Knowing these six has been the icing on the cake of our time here. They take us out to karaoke, teach us slang, show us the best late-night tacos, and give us a real connection to life as a college student in Mexico City.

late-night tacos in la Ciudad de México

late-night tacos in la Ciudad de México

More connections came out of that May weekend, too, academic ones. When we’re sitting in Public Health class, speaking with an important Mexican policy-maker about the health outcomes of a Mexican diet, my mind goes back to a May conference led by a Feinberg professor on culturally-appropriate diet changes for Chicago’s Latino populations.

I believe this to be the point of the 100,000 Strong in the Americas grants: tangible connections between students here, students there, ideas here, and ideas there. When I head back to Evanston in the fall, I’ll be bringing back specific Mexican anecdotes, policies, and the impression of Montse, Adolfo, Andres et al. for some sure to be enriching University Hall discussions.