Image Queretaro skyline at night


Image Raymond Mullen throwing O on street in Queretaro

My study abroad experience in Querétaro, México, was an incredible and humbling experience. There was so much to learn and love, with, at times, an overwhelming number of cultural differences that required some adjustments. Right off the bat, there was zero English being spoken by any of the airport security when I arrived. Before this program, I struggled to speak the language outside of class. After my initial arrival, it was clear I needed to get out of my comfort zone and not be so shy. Ultimately, this was a good thing. Especially when living with my amazing host family, as they absolutely loved to sit at the table and talk for hours. And when I say hours, I mean two to three hours minimum every day with no breaks. This was a big cultural difference for me because I live a very independent life and am naturally not talkative. Let alone in another language. Nevertheless, this drastically improved my Spanish speaking skills, but mostly, my confidence to go for it and not worry about making mistakes. Another cultural difference that struck me was that the public pays to use the restroom, and if you need any bath tissue, that costs extra, and it's by the square.

Throughout the GEO program, we traveled to a new and exciting location with cultural and historical significance to México. What was awesome about these locations was that our academic studies were always connected or associated with these topics or places. This made learning the literature and lecture material much more manageable. Personally, the pyramids at Teotihuacán and the Templo Mayor during our Mexico City excursion were the most inspiring and awe-invoking experiences. Mexico City was also the biggest surprise I experienced during this trip. This is because I was not expecting Mexico City to be one, so massive, and two, to be packed with as many people as there were. During the day, I would say it was as packed as New York during the busiest hours of the day. But in Mexico City, this was literally all the time! And during the night, it was even more alive!

Although the excursions were fantastic and provided a better understanding of Mexican culture, my host family and our neighbors across the street contributed to my favorite memories of the trip that I will forever cherish. My host family was so kind and helpful, from providing a place to stay, welcoming me into their family, conversing for hours upon hours, and helping me understand and review my homework. Because of this, my favorite memory is when I got to take them to their favorite local food vendor and have a massive family and neighborhood dinner to show and share my respect and admiration for all of them. This ended up being such a wonderful and fun night.

Thankfully, this experience will undoubtedly help me in my future endeavors to join the Federal Bureau of Investigations, where I want to specifically help Spanish-speaking families. Because of this six-week immersion trip, I was exposed to and learned a great deal about the culture throughout México, let alone developing my skills using the language itself, which will help me understand, communicate, and assist Spanish-speaking families.

Image Group selfie at ruins

My advice for future students going on this GEO program is this: bring shorts, other breathable clothes, and a healthy amount of bug spray. If you have morning classes, you will need bug spray guaranteed. Additionally, because there is no air-conditioning in Querétaro, bring a small fan that can be plugged into the wall for heat relief.

There are no words to explain how you should prepare for the culture shock and difficulty you will have in the beginning. But my best advice is to embrace it and push through it. My other classmates were a fantastic group to converse with and decompress with, which is a must. My best advice at the end of the day would be to have a show or chat with someone in English, or your native language, that can relieve some of the stress. After the second week, you'll start to get the hang of things, and your confidence will skyrocket. I hope this helps! But most importantly, HAVE FUN!

By Raymond Mullen

Mexican Studies & Spanish Immersion in Queretaro, Summer 2023