New Beginnings in Mexico – by Saul Hernandez

Being in México has been one of the most influential experiences in my lifetime. I chose to study abroad in the “Social Work in a Latin American Context” for three reasons. One, obviously to study Social Work. It is amazing to see the differences between Méxican Social Work and Social Work from the U.S, especially as students. Sadly, students at Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM) didn’t get the chance to visit us this week. However, we had the honor of visiting their beautiful campus and to learn that their Social Work students  have to go through a four and a half year program with nine semesters. In the U.S on the other hand, we have four years with eight semesters of Social Work, assuming it is your first choice when entering a college or university. The way we have learned Social Work is interesting as well. In the U.S I have learned how to work with individuals, then groups and families, and then communities. It is the other way around in México. They work from a macro level and then to the individual and that is pretty amazing.

CGEE students and UNAM students pose for a picture

We traded interesting tales of our experience studying social work

Secondly, I came to better my spanish. As a  native spanish speaker there is still much to learn about my own language. Being in México has helped me practice and enhance my vocabulary. I spend my days talking to locals, staff at Casa Cemal, and practice in class. All of these experiences will help me be a better Social Worker and be able to communicate effectively with my neighborhood in Chicago, IL. Through my study abroad program, CGEE, I have been pushed to new heights and have been able to present in Spanish, interact to with guest speakers, and walk around town with no worries of not understanding anyone. Hearing the stories of  people of Cuernavaca has been inspiring for me. To be able to practice Spanish also means comprehending what others share. I am glad that this wonderful program has made this possible for me.

Saul and his Mexican family

My family in Mexico and I

Lastly and most importantly, I have had  the opportunity to visit my wonderful family who I have not seen in 16 years. I have been marking the days until I could meet my family. Nervous and excited I visited them one weekend and got to hear a lot of our family stories. It was just an amazing reunion.  I got to hear about their expectations of the future and one day coming to the U.S to visit family in Chicago. Experiencing México City was a new experience as I saw a new part of the “Mercado” (Market). There is a wide variety of cultural life form the murals, food, and the vibrant life of the people. My cousin showed me around and I fell in love with all.

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