"A Sense of Adventure and Fearlessness": OU in Puebla Student Guest Post
D'Angelo Gatewood is a senior majoring in Spanish at the University of Oklahoma. As the OU in Puebla study center re-opens for its first full semester post-pandemic, D'Angelo is testing the waters as the program's only fall 2021 student. He agreed to share some of his experiences so far with the College of International Studies in order to encourage more students to take the leap and study abroad at OUP. During his first few months in Mexico, D'Angelo has already made friends, improved his Spanish skills, and spent time exploring Puebla and Mexico City.
¡Hola a todos! ¿Están listos para aprender la vida de un estudiante intercambio durante una pandemia?
Hello everyone! My name is D'Angelo Gatewood. If you’re reading this, it’s a little too late to partake in OU in Puebla for Fall 2021. However, that does mean you have the opportunity to gain insights about the program from firsthand experiences. As the only student from OU this semester, my experience is going to be different than most. As you continue to read, you will see that whether you are the sole OU student or with a group of 20, the experience is what you make it.
Gaining Independence, Finding Community
Is it challenging being the only student sometimes? Yes. Do I regret doing it? Not at all. People are accustomed to gravitating towards the people they are familiar with. Therefore, when the “honeymoon phase” of being in a new country wore off, it was lonely at times. However, this moment was relatively brief. While I was in the process of developing a social life, I found out that I can enjoy the experience without others. I went inside an inactive volcano. I went go-karting AND came in first place. I went to local restaurants and explored new foods. As time went on, I befriended numerous people and found a sense of community, despite coming here alone. I learned that while it is great having people to join in the experience with you, the same experience is magnificent even if you are by yourself.
Studying Abroad in a Pandemic
It’s been interesting seeing how Mexico’s approach to COVID is different from what I’m used to in the U.S. Nobody enters a building without a mask. NOBODY. It is very common for employees to provide hand sanitizer for guests and require temperature checks upon entry. The main aspect of my time abroad that has been affected are my classes. Three out of my four classes are online, but I’ve still gained a lot of practice to help build my Spanish proficiency. While my school life has been adjusted to a digital experience, the opportunity to explore the city and country has not been drastically altered due to COVID.
Memorable Moments So Far
My favorite experience was my trip to Mexico City. Unlike the school sponsored trips, I arranged everything for my trip. I researched and booked my hotel. I explored different bus routes and determined which one would be the best in regards to my hotel. Once I got there, I got the opportunity to do some cool things, such as ride a double decker bus and tour the Museo de Antropología, and I went to the theater and watched Candyman entirely in Spanish. When I returned to Puebla, I came back with a newfound sense of adventure and fearlessness.