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Merida, Yucatan: La ciudad de paz (The City of Peace)


Olson's mom and dad meet her host family

May 2012 | by Lindsay Olson

Junior Lindsay Olson gives her perspective on the before, during and after of her Study Abroad experience.


After talking to one of my professors at St. Ambrose University, I immediately knew Mexico was the perfect place for me to be this semester (Spring 2012). My number one goal for study abroad was to become as fluent as possible in Spanish because I am studying to be a Spanish teacher. I wanted to be immersed in the Mexican culture because the Mexican culture and spin on the Spanish language is very evident in the U.S. However, when I first told my parents that I wanted to study in Merida, they were not easily convinced. The news we receive in the U.S. is that Mexico is an unsafe and unstable place. My parents, therefore, had a negative perception of the country.

By mid-December, I began to realize I was leaving for Mexico very soon, and I was anxious and scared at the same time. When I would tell people where I was going, they would ask "Is it safe there? Are you scared?" or say "Be careful!" After hearing this over and over, I started to get scared! However, I really trusted that Central College Abroad would not put me in a dangerous place.

When I got to Merida, I was pleasantly surprised. I can say that I never once felt unsafe in Merida, even at night. The Central House is in the most beautiful neighborhood and people are out and about at all hours. We ran to Pilates class every day, I took the bus to the Centro on my own to my internship at an elementary school and I walked to class every morning with no problems at all. Also, all of the host families are within a short distance from the Central House. The locals were very welcoming to me and helpful whenever I needed something.

I was so excited for my family to visit me in Mexico and experience this welcoming culture firsthand. I asked my parents to write about their own perspective in terms of safety in Merida and here is what they had to say:

"We got a call from our daughter last May, and she was totally ecstatic because she was just accepted into the CCA Merida program. Our first reaction was to be happy for her but in the back of our minds, we were extremely apprehensive about sending our daughter to Mexico. We attended pre-departure orientation at Central College, and the staff and Merida alumni put our minds at ease; we knew she would be in great hands. We sent Lindsay off in January, and the first call we got from her was extremely encouraging. Lindsay was in love. She had nothing but great things to say about the people of Merida, the staff, her host family and the area!

"Our family actually got to experience Merida for ourselves on March 21. We went down to visit Lindsay, and our stay was truly amazing. This was our first time out of the country and after this trip, we would do it again! The people of Merida were so caring and sweet. Once we arrived and received a tour of the Central House, the staff arranged bus tickets and cab rides for our stay, which was extremely helpful and was one less thing for us to have to figure out! We can't say enough good things about Valerie, Merida resident director, and the staff. They are amazing people.

"As long as we had my daughter by our side, we had no issues with the language. Our biggest concern with Lindsay going to Mexico was her safety, and after we visited, I knew I could rest at ease. The people there are so friendly and the area was very safe and secure. We had the comfort of knowing Lindsay was in a great home because we had the chance to dine with our daughter's host family. They are such a great family. During our dinner and time with the family, they made us feel as if we were also part of their family which makes me feel better knowing this was where my daughter was living! My family and I loved Merida and would go back in a heartbeat."

Before going to Merida, my biggest concern was safety. However, people who have no knowledge of Merida or Mexico were the people who created this concern for me. My advice for future study abroad students is to not let people talk you out of studying in Merida. This program has been around for decades and has many years of experience.

Since I've learned so much about Merida and Yucatan this spring, my goal is to educate others in the U.S. about Mexico. You can't really see the country's beauty until you experience it for yourself. Since I have firsthand experience, I'd like to help alleviate concerns others have about studying abroad in Mexico.


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