Kate, Outbound to Mexico

Time is flying, and this week, I realized that I have three months left of my crazy, beautiful, Rotary Youth Exchange. Three months left in my second place I call home. Three months left with some of the most amazing people that I have met. Three months left to make my exchange count. Three months.

In less than 2 weeks, I will be moving to my third host family. Although I am very excited for the opportunity to get to know and spend time with my next host family, I am very sad to be leaving my current family. Ever since I arrived, they made every effort to make me feel welcome and part of their family. In 3 months, I have grown to love them so much and am so grateful for all the time that we spent together, whether it be going to Puebla’s ferris wheel together to grilling out with the extended family to teaching my host sisters how to play chess. I love how we joke around and tease each other (for example, they call me chiva loca or crazy goat as the direct English translation), how they care enough to reprimand me, how they have supported and taken care of me when I have been sick, and a million other things. My host family has treated me like a member of the family, not as an outsider always looking in, and there are not words to describe my gratitude to them. I know being a host family is a huge commitment and responsibility, and I am forever indebted to my host families for the love they have shown me.

I have been keeping quite busy in March with a variety of different activities (Tip for future exchange students: get involved in different activities that interest you. It is a great way to meet a variety of people). On March 1, I went with my Human Anatomy class on a field trip State of Puebla’s Medical Forensic Center. As we waited outside, we were as excited as little kids for Christmas as we put on the disposable gowns, gloves, and masks (my classmates more than me, I was so sleepy and tired. All I wanted to do was nap). We were given a brief tour of the building before being ushered into an observation area. Below us, the forensics team was analyzing the cadavers of two murder victims from the day before. In small groups, we had the opportunity to actually enter, walk around, and watch up-close in the room with the cadavers. (It didn’t really smell that bad or that strong). A few minutes after I entered, I started feeling light-headed, so I tried to exit the room. However, I started to pass out, so one of the forensics team members and my teachers carried me outside. After lying down for a while and eating some sugar, I felt a lot better, just weak, but I was not able to reenter the facility. Only time will tell if I am meant to be a doctor, but this experience definitely did not scare me away!

The first weekend of March, I attended my host district’s Rotary Youth Leadership Awards (RYLA) in Oaxtepec, Morelos. I loved the opportunity to meet so many Mexican future outbound students as well as to spend time with some inbounds. On our first night after dinner, we had a disco dance party. Much to my friends’ dismay, they found me playing chess instead of partying (Disclaimer: after the game, I did join the party). The next morning, we attended a session about leadership. I was chosen to go to the stage and read Rotary’s Four Way Test, and then we listened to several speakers talk about leadership and Rotary Youth Exchange. In the afternoon, we went outside and participated in many group integration activities that emphasized skills essential to exchange such as teamwork, trust, and confidence. After the comida (biggest meal of the day) we had free time, so I went swimming and for a photo hike with some new friends (future outbounds from México) before dinner. After dinner and the evening talent show, I stayed up (way too late) talking with two of my closest exchange student friends. I think that exchange students should avoid only making friends with other exchange students, but that we should also enjoy the camaraderie and fellowship that can be found in the bonds between exchange students. On Sunday, we all had to say goodbye, to current inbounds and future outbounds, to new and old friends. And every time, it is harder to say “goodbye” or even “see you later,” because we know that one day that goodbye will be forever.

After RYLA, preparation for Model United Nations (MUN) for my whole school system (UPAMUN) became much more intense. MUN is an extracurricular activity where students roleplay delegates from different countries in simulations of different United Nations Committees. Every day, we had practice sessions at the university campus. The practice sessions that used to be full of goofy antics became serious as we all realized how little time was left before rehearsal became real. One week before UPAMUN, the (second) president of my committee left, so I became the president and the moderator for the Emergency Security Council. Thankfully after two months of very intense preparation and practice, I had already learned both roles, but I was still intimidated at the prospect of leading a committee practically alone (this was only my second Model United Nations ever). My job was to moderate the debate, lead the committee in protocol, and guide the delegates towards an effective solution. My committee is also a crisis committee, which has a very different format than a standard committee. With the help of our faculty adviser and High Command (the student team who organized UPAMUN), I wrote 13 “news reports” to periodically update the delegates of my committee on the current state of the Sudan border crisis. And then, the time for preparation and practice was over.

UPAMUN was held from March 14-16, and on the first day, I woke up with butterflies in my stomach. Up until the very last seconds before the first session, we all were scrambling to accommodate last-minute changes (like how my committee’s room changed to another building across campus less than an hour before the first session). After we got started, I slowly relaxed. This is what we had rehearsed and practiced for months. However, it was still exhausting, and my feet were killing me by the end of the day (because I was standing for over 8 hours in sessions). On the last day, after hours and hours of debate, my delegates had arrived at a compromise, and their draft resolution (plan to resolve crisis) passed! For the last session, we all just joked around, listened to the official song of UPAMUN 2018 on repeat (“En Tus Tierras Bailaré”), and voted on the macanazos or superlatives of the committee (for example, Trump is for the delegate who fights with everyone). To conclude UPAMUN, we had the Final Ceremony where we give awards for the best delegates in every committee. I was very surprised, honored, and grateful when I won the award for Best President, but the best part of UPAMUN were the friendships we made. We have become a crazy, MUN-obsessed, and pineapple-loving family, and although UPAMUN was an exhausting and stressful few months, I would do it again and again in order to spend time with this absolutely amazing group of people.

After recovering from UPAMUN (and struggling with post-MUN depression), my school as well as many other prepas (high schools) in Puebla competed in inter-school competitions (interprepas). My school actually canceled classes so we could watch the games and cheer on the Prepa UPAEP Sur (my school) soccer and volleyball teams from Wednesday to Friday. The air was electric as we yelled the UPAEP fight song (Alerombo!! Alerombo!!) and cheered on our classmates. I had not gone to a high school football game in the United States, so I never had experienced something like this with all the camaraderie and school spirit. Interprepas was also a great time to spend time with friends-from school, from MUN, from RYLA, and other exchange students. One night, we had another MUN session (even though UPAMUN is over) just to hang out because we already miss seeing each other. On Thursday (the day I took over Rotary Youth Exchange District 6900’s Instagram), before my school’s soccer games, I walked to the Zócalo (city center) with a friend from RYLA and my friend from Indonesia where we explored and went to the artisanal market (where I bought myself a chess set). Unfortunately, the business simulator competition (that I was supposed to compete in) was canceled on Friday, but then we were able to support my school’s soccer team and a friend in the Rubik Cube finals.

Now, I am on spring break for two weeks, and my parents and brother from the United States are coming to visit me in a few days! I am very excited for the opportunity to show my family a piece of what my life is like here in Puebla and for them to meet some of the people who matter to me the most in this world.

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