When Casey Spencer was in class at the Universidad de Guadalajara in Mexico’s second largest city last summer, the recent Macomb graduate remembers thinking, “I did this. I took the initiative to get here.”
Spencer (center in photo, to the right of Professor Maria Ramos) had also taken the initiative to apply for an award from the Macomb Multicultural International Initiatives Study Abroad Fund, which helped offset some of the tuition and travel expenses.
“The price was very reasonable, but the (stipend) definitely helped in paying for it,” says Spencer. “Spending those few weeks in Mexico was one of the best decisions I have ever made. Like most students studying abroad for the first time, I was nervous about going to a new place. But from the moment I stepped off the plane, it was a really good experience. I met some of the most interesting and kindest people, and my Spanish-speaking skills definitely improved.”
Spencer had never flown in an airplane before or traveled outside of the U.S. when she signed up for Professor Maria Ramos’ study abroad trip to Guadalajara. In fact, Spencer says, she never had any desire to travel at all until she began taking Ramos’ classes. Now, she is majoring in Spanish and Global Studies at Wayne State University and planning on joining the Peace Corp after she graduates – eying an assignment in a Latin American country.
“Professor Ramos’ classes really interested me in seeing how other people live,” says Spencer, who, like the other Macomb students, lived with a host family during her stay in Mexico. “They were wonderful. Very accepting and understanding. Two of us from Macomb shared a bedroom at each house and we all grew close. If I had not gone on this study abroad trip, I would not be the person I am today and I would never have met some of my best friends.”
One of the highlights of the trip for Spencer was watching with the rest of Mexico as the Latin American country’s soccer team beat Germany in the World Cup championships held in Moscow. At the time of its loss, Germany was the World Cup holder and all of Mexico celebrated the unexpected upset.
“It’s a day we will all remember,” says Spencer.
Some other standouts from her time in Guadalajara were the tamales her host family served frequently for dinner, visits to the historic city’s museums and strolling through the Tlaquepaque market.
“This was a street with vendors selling clothing, food, pottery and Mexican skulls (a famous fixture of the country’s Day of the Dead celebrations each November), relates Spencer. “Latin culture is very colorful, and we walked everywhere, taking it all in. There were all these different, really large murals painted on buildings. We sat down in chairs and looked at them. That was the best, just being there and experiencing the culture.”