Getting to Know the Mexican Students
Ashley Sprengeler is a dairy science major at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, with an emphasis in International Dairy and Spanish. Ashley comes from Plato, Minnesota. Ashley's portfolio entry reflects on her experience traveling and learning with Mexican students during the field study course in Mexico.
The picture that I chose was one of me and the group of CUALTOS students when we were in Guadalajara. This picture is meaningful to me because these students really taught me what Mexico was all about, as a country, a people, and a culture. My original intentions of going on the trip were to see the country, learn about Mexico’s dairy industry, and practice my Spanish. Yet, looking back on the trip, I realized that I learned so much more.
When the CUALTOS students met us for the first time, I was a little unsure since I didn’t know what they were going to be like, how they would act, and if I could even communicate with them. But from day one, they were nothing but overly friendly and outgoing. My uneasiness quickly subsided when all of us went out to eat that first night, and spent hours talking late at night. I was very surprised how all of them were so interested in learning about me and where I came from, and why I came on the trip. I was expecting them to be completely different.
One of my first fears for traveling with the Mexican students was that I would not be able to understand a hint of what they were saying, and that I wouldn’t be able to say anything to them. So I was a little reluctant to talk with them at first, thinking they would make fun of my Spanish. Yet it was the total opposite. They ENCOURAGED me to speak more Spanish, and they kept saying that they really admired how most of us could speak a good amount of the language. I quickly found out that I knew a lot more than what I thought, and by the end of the trip, I could carry on a full, long conversation with any of them. I also learned so many new words from Oscar, who also taught me many Mexican pop songs, poems, and stories. This group of students really taught me that you learn the most Spanish when you are actively in the culture, talking (or attempting to talk) with Mexican people, not in a classroom.
The CUALTOS students also taught me more about the Mexican culture. Whether it was going out to different bars, trying different food, or visiting different cities, they always pointed out things to me that I wouldn’t have realized if I was on the trip myself. I got to ask them so many questions about their school systems, what they do in their daily lives, and what they think about certain issues in the dairy industry, that I would never have know by just reading a textbook or going on a tour.
Finally, they taught me how Mexico is as a people. Through their actions, I got to see how the real Mexican citizen goes about their day, and how they live their culture. I learned that Mexican people are so much more open and initially-friendly than the average U.S. citizen. Through my interaction with them, as well as every other Mexican, I realized that they consider family one of the most important things in life. Instead of rushing through meals and going to work, they all sit down, make a meal, and talk with each other before their day starts. This really made me stop and evaluate what was important in my life. I learned from these students that there is so much more to a country than its landscape or economy, what matters is the people and how much they are enjoying life, this I will take with me forever.