International Studies & Programs

Second time is a charm in Mexico

This year I realized that there is nothing more I love on this earth than helping communities.

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Published: Friday, 26 Apr 2024 Author: Aleida Contreras

Leadership team standing on a rock by the oceanMexico has always carried a special place in my heart, but getting the opportunity to experience Mexico with such incredible individuals is an indescribable experience. Many people come back changed from their study abroad programs, but I truly believe that International Engagement program in Mexico (IEM) is a program that will stay with you forever. One week can change the rest of your life, and if you ask anyone else that has participated in this program, they will tell you the same thing. I was fortunate to go to Mexico with the program, for the second time. This time I got to go as a site leader, and many have asked me, would you do it again and without any hesitation I say yes.

When I did the program for the first time in my freshman year I fell in love with community engagement, so much that I decided to continue my community engagement efforts at Michigan State as a Community Engaged Scholar. This second time that I went, I was open to a different perspective. Being on this side of the table was different. I was a leader, I was a role model, I was the person that the students asked if they had any questions. I have always been the person that plans everything, I like to be prepared but I don’t think anything could have prepared me for being a site leader. I was exposed to a different version of Community project of painting a blue wallmyself. I discovered how I am when I work under pressure, or my reaction to being unprepared in situations or trying to guide a team in a project that is beyond the classroom. This year I realized that there is nothing more I love on this earth than helping communities. And I hope I can do this for the rest of my life.

Spanish is my second language, however, it’s the language I have spoken the most in my lifetime. But going on this program challenged me to take the role of an interpreter. Many American Spanish speakers don’t get to experience that proper translation aspect, but I wanted my peers that didn’t speak Spanish to absorb the same information that I was. Group of MSU students wearing red MSU shirts at Punto CometaIt’s a skill that I developed the first year I went with IEM and a skill that has continued to help me until this day.

Although I am Latina, going to Mexico always teaches me so much about their culture. I always thought that because I am Mexican, I couldn’t be a tourist in Mexico. But I quickly realized that Mexico is so much more than my small town. Mexico has pyramids that you can climb, oceans for you to swim, desserts to drive in and cities to explore. IEM lifted up that barrier between my small town and an endless world of opportunity. The Mexico I knew two years ago is not the same Mexico I know now.

Name: Aleida Contreras
Status: Sophomore
Major: Applied Engineering Science
Hometown: Auburn Hills, Michigan
Program: International Engagement in Huatulco