Taco Bell doesn’t do Mexican well, but Mexico can feel like home
Ever wanted to take advantage of an opportunity while it exists? How about take an opportunity to travel? Immerse yourself in a new culture? Those are some things Dane Erickson (Junior; Quantitative Analysis; Clarks Hill, IN) was looking to accomplish with his Spring 2020 semester. He didn’t have to cross an ocean to achieve his goal of learning more about agriculture, although his classes were mostly policy oriented, studying in Mexico allowed him to better understand the Mexico-US trade relation. Erickson chose Tecnologico de Monterrey Queretaro, Mexico, where he found other ways to get involved in agriculture outside the classroom by working on the University dairy farm.
As a dual major pursuing a degree in Political Science, Dane took most of his classes through the Department of International Relations. “Mexican politics are heavily influenced by American politics,” Erickson explained, “and as the only American in most of my classes, I was often asked political questions by my peers and my professors.” He did find one of the biggest differences to life in Mexico was the food saying, “Mexican food is amazing, but you have to be careful if you’re not a fan of spicy foods. Most Mexican food has little to do with what you see on the menu at any Taco Bell, and even the tacos are different. Some of my favorite dishes included pozole, molletes, and tacos de asada.” Overall, he found Mexican culture to be quite similar to Midwestern or small town culture, although different from the US at large. Sharing with your neighbors, waving to cars as they drive by, and family are very important to most Mexicans. He expanded, “This is like the values of the community that I grew up with in rural Indiana. Family, neighbors, and church are very important across both groups, and I enjoyed finding common ground with my peers in Mexico based on our shared values.”
Dane gives his highest recommendation to Mexico, for both people interested in study abroad or just independent travelers. The weather is great, the food is better, and the possibly to make many great friends from during time there. “For students of Agricultural Economics, studying in Mexico is one of the best ways to understand agricultural trade and the importance of Mexico in the American agricultural economy, and if you’re interested, there are many opportunities to get hands on experience in the University farm such as I did.” He also enjoyed living with a host family. “If you have the opportunity to live with a host family while studying abroad, I found it was a fantastic way to immerse myself in the culture.”
Erickson concluded, “(A year from now) I will remember the people who worked at the farm with me, and their hospitality. These were older farm workers who had been working in agriculture for most of their life. Although they spoke no English and my Spanish is not great, it seemed that we had great conversations. For lunch at the farm, everyone would bring something and we would share it, potluck style, but there was always an abundance of food, and everyone was quick to share their food.” Does this sound like a good experience, or what? Sounds pretty similar to many Boilermakers’ experience on campus that could be very similar abroad.
If interested in what programs offer the opportunity to study agriculture abroad around the world, check out the College of Agriculture’s study abroad office (International Programs in Agriculture