First Trip Scholars Network
My Oaxaca Immersion Experience by Aaniyah Hicks
My time in Oaxaca, Mexico fully consisted of self-reflection and personal growth where I studied at la Universidad de Anahuac. I completed my study abroad program with newly formed friendships and a brand new outlook on global citizenship. The campus was muy hermosa, vibrant, welcoming, and had some of the nicest students that I have ever met. Oaxaca is a city filled with culture, history, art, positivity, and delicious cuisine. During my stay, I lived with a host family, improved my Spanish, enjoyed salsa lessons, and took cooking classes where I made various dishes such as garnachas and conchas!
"As a first generation, low income college student with zero former traveling experience, this was a once in a lifetime opportunity"
As part of the program, I was paired with a native student named Leslie. Some of my best conversations in español were had with Leslie and I also helped help her to improve her English-speaking skills as well. Another contributing factor to my great experience was my amazing host family. They were all extremely welcoming and accommodating to my needs. My host family only spoke Spanish, and Oaxaca culture was all they knew. This provided me unparalleled opportunities to become immersed in the language and lifestyle of a Mexican family.
My favorite parts of my study abroad experience were the weekend excursions. I visited the ruins of Monte Albán and Mitla, a site that predates the Aztec Empire, which revealed testimony of an innovative and progressing Pre-Columbian civilization. The Tamazulapan and its waterfalls were a beautiful sight. Fortunately, I was able to witness the beauty of handcrafted art at the artisan towns of Tilcajete, where they made “alebrijes'' wood carvings, San Bartolo where they created black pottery, and Teotitlan del Valle, a weaver town where indigenous tapestries are made. We even took a weekend trip to Puerto Escondido where we rode fishing boats through the mangroves to Chacahua, the Afro-Oaxacan community. Getting to know the native Chacahuans and being allowed into their tight-knit community was an amazing and insightful experience! They were even kind enough to allow members of our group to enjoy fresh mangos from their trees, and might I add, was the best mango I had ever tasted!
As a first generation, low income college student with zero former traveling experience, this was a once in a lifetime opportunity that I wish I could partake in again. I am certainly now more thankful for the little luxuries that I previously wasn't aware were luxuries before traveling abroad. My advice to my fellow students is to seize the opportunity, go to a place less traveled, and get to know the people as well as yourself. This is my first, but not my last stop, in my journey to become a well-traveled global citizen!
Aaniyah Hicks is currently a Political Science and Criminology student at Howard University. She is a 2022 First Trip Scholar-Mexico and was also a recipient of the President’s Award for exceptional cultural inquiry into Latin America and the Caribbean.