I clutched my suitcase and crumpled up the tiny piece of paper with small phrases of Spanish I scribbled down last minute. Taking a deep breath, I stepped out of the airplane. Large electric signs of “Bienvenido!” decorated my surroundings, and I slowly started walking towards the luggage claim.
After an hour of waiting in line to pass customs and in picking up my luggage, I saw numerous signs of “NORTHWESTERN UNIVERSIDAD PANAMERICANA” decorating the walkway in the arrivals section of the airport. After quickly running over to them and heading over to the van to pick us up, I met one of my peers for the program and an extremely kind soul named Carlos, who kindly drove us to our final location.
Sitting on the van, my heart continued to beat. I stared outside the car window, excitedly encountering the first scenes of my study abroad trip. As a Korean-American that grew up mostly in Beijing and the states, I was unsure what exactly I was to expect during my stay in Mexico.
I saw colorful murals depicting Frida Kahlo’s face. I could smell a mixture of grilled meat and smoke in the air, perhaps from a nearby restaurant. Lush green forests decorated numerous areas of the city, juxtapositioned next to metropolitan skyscrapers and malls. A mixture of Spanish words and English words decorated the streets, and kind smiles seemed to fill the aurora of the vibrant city I had just entered into. I was entranced.
With my very broken Spanish, I asked my driver, “Cual es tú comida preferida?” —a phrase I had only used in class and when in reading textbooks. Carlos looked back at me with a smile and said “Tacos! Me encanta tacos!” He then continued on to recommend his favorite taquerias in the city as well as his favorite spots to visit. The thirty minutes of the car ride flew by, and the warm welcoming vibe of the city and Carlos excited me even more.
This was going to be an amazing experience.
Mexico, Day 1.