Work Hard, Play Hard

It’s been two weeks since my last post. Sorry about that. A few things have gotten in the way…. Namely schoolwork and vacationing. Two things that couldn’t be more opposite.

Classes, Mexican Style

Before coming to Mexico I knew that “study abroad” really meant study abroad; however, I’m not sure I realized just how different it would be to take all of my classes:

  1. With Mexican students, completely in Spanish (it’s rough being upheld to the same expectations when your language abilities are anything less than perfect)
  2. In a different academic environment

I obviously knew that things would be different, but I couldn’t be sure how different or in what ways.

As it turns out, you are much more in charge of your own education here. There are no “small assignments,” only important presentations, big exams, and long papers. Also, the syllabi here are almost obsolete. They typically give you an idea of what each unit will look like topic-wise, but don’t list what will be done on which day or which readings should be done when. At the end there is a huge list of references and most of them are not required for the class per se, but “they will contribute to your knowledge on the subject” or help you be “better prepared” for exams and papers and such. I don’t know about you, but I don’t exactly remember the last time I read an optional reading for a class…. Hmmmm.

So, as a result of having almost arbitrary syllabi, the question on my mind has consistently been: “So….. what is it that we actually have to do for this class??” Believe it or not, I’ve been in class for a month now and I still am figuring out what it is that I actually have to produce or present for each class.

The last two weeks were rough because basically two days beforehand, I realized that I had presentations in three of my classes.

In one class I had no idea what my topic even was (turns out it was about how Zapata emerged as a leader in the Mex Revolution) and my group didn’t get any of the information until the night before. In another, I emailed my professor to find out what the reading was for our next class and, since I was the only one to inquire about it, he decided I should be the one to present the material to the class. However, he forgot to mention what our presentations were supposed to be like, how long they should be, etc. There really aren’t rubrics, guidelines, or anything here. In my third class none of my videos worked for my presentation so it ended up being short.

On a similar note… I just realized that in the next two weeks I’m supposed to have read three full novels. Funsies.

Oh the frustrations of being Type-A in such a Type-B society…. *sigh*

Interestingly enough, I’m not actually as stressed as I would be at home. I think I’ve just sort of accepted the fact that things work differently and I really don’t have control over it.

Playin’ at Playa

The other thing that prevented me from writing last week/weekend was the fact that we spent three nights and four days in Playa del Carmen.

The beach was gorgeous! The Caribbean side of the peninsula is amazing. Beautiful, crystalline, turquoise water. Fluffy, white sand.

In order to take advantage of the clear waters, we had planned to ferry over to the island of Cozumel to snorkel for a day. However, it was going to end up costing about $80 for the ferry ride and just two hours of snorkeling. Still wanting to see the vibrant life below the surface, we decided to make a day trip down to Akumal with our new friend from the Czech Republic.

In total we spent about $20 and were able to snorkel for about 4 hours, see huge sea turtles, and have a relaxing day with new friends. We didn’t even have to go out on a boat in order to see the turtles, schools of fish, or reef. We swam about 300 meters out into the water and were able to see everything. The turtles were so cute, especially when they came up to surface right next to me to take a breath. (There’s something that you’ve probably never stopped to think about: how do sea turtles breath??)

Back at Playa we mostly just laid out in the sun, swam in the ocean, searched for seashells, and tried different foods from local vendors close-by. Instead of eating at all of the overpriced, Americanized restaurants, we opted for the family owned shops with maybe 6 seats at a bar inside. The tamales, quesadillas, huevos motuleños, and fresh fruit aguas were to die for!

On Thursday night (15th) we went to the plaza to see “El Grito” for the Mexican Independence Day where everyone yells “¡Viva México!” We got to see a great fireworks display, some professional singers, and just people watch in the crowd.

Midnight walks on the beach were also a staple of this vacation. We walked, talked, watched a fire show, and even jumped on a trampoline on the beach! All in the middle of the night. This is why I love Mexico. (One of many reasons of course…)

Overall a lovely way to spend el puente (Independence Day)!!

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P.S. I’ve added a new page entitled Yucatecan Kitchen where I’ll be keeping track of all of my favorite recipes! ¡Buen provecho!


4 comments on “Work Hard, Play Hard

  1. DUAbroad says:

    Kelli, you wrote such a great description of what it’s like for an American to take classes in a foreign university – we shared it on the DUSA blog. We think it will be helpful for students going all over the world! =) Thanks!

  2. […] can read Kelli’s full post here. Eco World Content From Across The Internet. Featured on EcoPressed Making the Case for […]

  3. emilymarcus says:

    The Mexican system sounds so incredibly similar to the UK education system! And I feel the exact same way – needing to figure out what’s actually important and do the reading/research on your own, rather than being told is definitely a learning experience in itself!

    The one picture of the quesadillas made me beyond jealous. I’m still here eating ham & cheese sandwiches, pasta, and cereal.

    Looks like a great little trip!!

  4. Karyn Sweeney says:

    Hi Kelli, nice description of the academic differences. I just gave this link to a student considering study abroad in Latin America. Thanks for a great blog – your photos make me wish I were in Mexico!

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