By TAYLOR PAIGE NEFF
Many students take the summer to participate in trips around the country, see concerts, catch up with friends, and party. Then, there are the select few that choose summer classes and work during their free time. And finally, we meet students like Alycia Gondocs, who choose to participate in independent studies in another country for their summer vacation.
Alycia Gondocs, who graduates in December thanks to her independent study, is double majoring in English and Spanish and spent two months of her 2013 summer in Oaxaca, Oaxaca in Mexico.
“Last year I was part of the summer abroad program (through IU South Bend),” said Gondocs. “I learned an incredible amount about the history of the city and state, as well as the many different cultures that coexist and shape the region.”
It was because of that trip that she decided to return to Mexico. She started to plan to return to Oaxaca during the early weeks of the Spring 2013 semester and learned that by going back for an independent study, she would be able to graduate early.
“I’m currently finishing up my degree in Spanish, and I wanted to improve my ability to speak and think in the language,” said Gondocs. “There’s really no substitution for immersion, and I knew from my previous experience that Oaxaca is the perfect place to live and study for a few months.”
Gondocs lived in Oaxaca with the same host family she stayed with in 2012, Mariela and Carlos. She said she felt like she was coming home; but now that she is back in the States, she shared with us her plans after graduation.
“I would love to return to Mexico after I graduate,” said Gondocs. Though she doesn’t have a concrete plan set in place, her dream is to find a way to live in Oaxaca for an undesignated period of time.
“I would like to continue my education and obtain my TESL/TEFL certificate. English is an incredibly difficult language to learn, and I’d like to help ease that transition as best I can. I’d also love to travel some more!” she said.
Gondocs also shared one of her most memorable moments during the summer. She spent some time in the mountains of La Sierra Norte de Oaxaca and literally walked through the clouds!
“Our guide was amazing, and we spent about 8 hours in the mountains. One of the highlights of the trip is definitely the cloud forest: as we ascended the mountain, we eventually broke through the bottom of the clouds and were able to walk around in the middle of them. The forest was hauntingly beautiful: completely silent and dim with the mist from the clouds, everything seemed ethereal and almost preternatural,” she described.
If you ever have questions if studying abroad is helpful at all, Gondocs concurs that your time will not be spent wasted!
“Living in a country different from your own is an incredible experience, and I wouldn’t trade my time in Mexico for anything!”