The summer that I spent in San Luis Potosí, Mexico was the summer that changed my life. When we first arrived in San Luis, after a seven-hour bus ride from La Ciudad de México, it was late and very dark outside. The bus stopped on a corner and let us off at a school courtyard, where our new families waited anxiously to meet us. All of the students rushed off the bus, ready to see their new homes. This was the beginning of a fantastic seven-week journey.
The small, three-floor red and white building next to the courtyard where the bus dropped us off was where we attended our classes five days a week. Every morning, we all waited in the front porch area for our first classes to begin, looking out on the large, gated front yard with beautiful landscaping. In the backyard there was a small dining area, a basketball court, and a tetherball court. We spent a lot of our free time between classes learning to play tetherball and having basketball tournaments with our instructors. Just one block away from the school is a small café, as well as a bakery. We often went to one of these two places for treats after class. The bakery had a huge selection of pastries and other snacks, and it was very affordable. Our classes were fun and easy–I learned a lot about the Mexican culture and history in these classes, and the professors made the lessons interesting. Not much homework was given, but the things we learned from our host families really added to the things we learned in school.
When we were not in classes, we students spent a lot of time exploring the city. The main street, called La Carranza, is filled with things to do. My friends and I often visited a small café called Bubble Tea, where we could buy different flavored juices with tapioca balls at the bottom. La Carranza is also lined with small boutiques and lots of Mexican restaurants that I highly recommend trying. I often bought gorditas from the small restaurants while walking along this street–they were my favorite snack! You can also take La Carranza straight into the downtown area of San Luis. Although the walk was a bit long, I enjoyed going downtown on foot with my friends because we could stop in different shops and explore the city instead of watching everything pass us by from the window of a bus. It was also great exercise! The downtown area has lots beautiful churches to see, along with a great pizza place.
The mall is also a nice place to spend time with friends. The jewelry stores sell beautiful silver charms at great prices, so I bought gifts for my friends back home from the mall. There is also a movie theater connected to the mall where you can go to view American movies in Spanish. This was an easy way to build our vocabulary. Another way I learned new Spanish words was by watching my favorite American movies in Spanish while I was at home with my host family.
Since the 4th of July is only celebrated in the United States, we took a trip to Gogorrón, a water park not far from San Luis, to acknowledge our Independence Day. This trip allowed us to get to know the rest of the IU Honors participants as well as our teachers. We enjoyed water rides, piñatas, volleyball and jump-ropes all afternoon. Everyone had a lot of fun and it brought our family of Indiana students closer.
Our weekly expeditions with the IU Honors staff members were always a lot of fun. During the long bus rides we were able to spend time with our classmates and share what we had learned in our homes. Our trip to Guanajuato was perhaps the most memorable expedition for me. We explored the silver mines and learned about the history of the men who used to work under those extremely dangerous conditions. In another expedition, we visited the ancient city of Teotihuacán on our way to Mexico City. Climbing the ancient pyramids was an amazing–and tiring–experience.
My summer in Mexico was one of great growth for me. Not only did I widen my Spanish vocabulary and speaking skills, I developed a great respect for the Mexican culture and history. When I left Mexico, I was eager to learn more about different cultures and determined to return to San Luis someday. This was an experience of a lifetime, and I would do it a million times if I could.