Extended Education and International Programs

Education Abroad

Celina Found Herself in Mexico

Celina Waddy, Human Development & Family Studies Major

Summer 2018, Mexico - Universidad Autónoma de Guadalajara

Celina Waddy - Mexico

Excerpts from Celina's blog entry "La Perla Tapatía"

The amount of love that I was shown in Guadalajara was truly breathtaking. It came in swiftly as a force to say, “Celina. For this time, you are meant to be here.” Things just seemed to line up so perfectly. That’s not to say that this trip was without its lonely, challenging, and scary moments. But the bright moments shined through the haziness of the trying ones. [...] I wish that I could share every experience with you. Show you all of the colorful images in my mind. Let you taste the food and compassion, inhale the fragrant streets after the thunderstorms, and show you all around my little world. Unfortunately, that’s impossible. So for now, I am so excited to take you on a small part of my journey by sharing the things that stood out to me most.

Food in Guadalajara


Of course, eating all of the different foods was one of the most memorable experiences of my time in Mexico. My host mom, A, couldn’t have been a better cook. Eggs, cheese, beans, breads, pastries, salsas, fresh tortillas, delicious fruit, rich meats, aguas frescas. All of these and more were staples of my meal times spent in Guadalajara. From the traditional dishes of tortas ahogadas and carnes en su jugo to the freshest of quesadillas, I was very rarely hungry.

Group of people in front of a statue in Mexico City


The people! Oh, the wonderful people that I encountered! My host family brought so much joy into my days in the city. They took care of me as if I was their own and that was such a humbling experience. One of the most beautiful things that I was able to observe of Mexican culture is the hospitality and warmth that is so freely offered. From kind souls on the streets to the ones who felt like home, I was embraced with a pressing tenderness that I hadn’t quite experienced before.

Celina sitting on top of the piramide de sol

Museums & Monuments & Magic Moments

From pyramids to giant rollercoasters, I was enormously privileged to have the opportunity to soak up areas with incredible history. Visiting the pyramids of Teotihuacan was one of the most breathtaking of experiences of my life. The National Museum of Anthropology, Los Niños Héroes, El Bosque de los Colomos, la Barranca de Oblatos, even the zoo with the cutest squirrel monkeys running wild and free!

Celina in front of artwork at museum of anthropology

Notes of Culture

The biggest cultural shock that I experienced was of how so much of life in the country occur at later hours than in my area of the United States. Meal times are later, lunch breaks are longer, and it is common for many to spend the late hours of the night communing with friends and loved ones over music, laughter, and yes, more food. This took some time for me to adapt to.

There and Back Again: What One May Expect

It was ridiculous. I had been dreaming of this for months, yet that morning all I wanted to do was return home. I felt like a zombie walking aboard that plane. Emotionless, and still feeling every emotion possible as my body went ahead, leaving my mind two seconds behind. Of course, I knew that excitement was down there somewhere, buried beneath the shadow of uneasiness and doubt. The cloud was just growing heavy. Yet, I still found a way to push my feet of lead forward. My body powered through with a force that my mind was unaware of and I made my way through to the city and my temporary home.

By the time I arrived, I felt gross from the plane and really just wanted to hide in my room and melt in my missing of everyone back home. But my host family kindly and strongly insisted that I eat and then see around the neighborhood.

"Ven, Celina!" my host dad, M, kept calling to me, as I followed him around the crazy streets of the beautiful city. I was trying so hard to capture every word he spoke to me in the hazy and surreal moments as he pointed around to the sites. I had finally made it. I’m grateful for the moments that he captured as I reluctantly posed around these beautiful monuments messy and burning up in my jacket.

The excitement and nerves continued to course through my blood as I began my classes at Universidad Autónoma de Guadalajara and met classmates from different parts of the world. We were all scared to a certain degree, living away from home, trying to learn a new language and adapt to a foreign culture. At first, the days were packed and the nights were lonely. But then something clicked within me. I began to walk forward briskly and then run and then skip my way forward around the city. I embraced the mistakes. Every fumbled and mispronounced word. Every wrong bus route taken. I kept moving forward. Silencing the little shutters of fears that repeatedly attempted to break their way into my reality.

Slowly and then all at once, I began to fall for the city. The language became a challenge to be accepted head on instead of a barrier. The craziness that overwhelmed me became the hidden beauty instead of a scary monster. With time, the foreign bed began to feel like a home and the strangers became family. And my heart was warmed by the endless adventures that hid with anticipation down each crowded street. This was meant to be and I wasted no time wondering, I just leapt in.

And then all at once, it was time to return home. It was time to say, “I hope to see you one day soon! Let’s keep in touch,” to previously unknown people who had become the jewels of my support system. Those last few days, I tried not to think about my return and to continue to soak up the time remaining. I rejected the ideas of going home in my heart. It wasn’t time, I wasn’t ready. There was still so much left for me to conquer, so much to learn and see. But my desirous heart could not hinder that plane from arriving. So I took a deep breath and tried to trust that home would feel like home once again. And truthfully, it did. In the grand scheme of things, a month away occurs within the blink of an eye. And even though I miss my darling Perla Tapatía, I am meant to be home. For I have learned more of what I love, more of what I despise, and I only hope that I can use the gained understanding of myself, of others, and of life for the good of those around me. I will tell you that there is a bravery inside me that I knew existed but couldn’t seem to find. I’ve unlocked it and I can’t wait to see and share just where it takes me.

Con Amor,

Celina Kay