Friday, February 21, 2014


            This week has been filled with nerves, excitement, and some exhaustion as all of us students moved in with our urban home stay families!  We kicked off our stay with a "convivo", or gathering, with students and the host families to get to know each other and discuss expectations for both students and families. Some students are within walking distance of the CGE homes, but others are in other neighborhoods much farther away creating new transportation challenges. Many of us have enjoyed (and have been slightly confused) navigating the bus, or "la ruta" system or sharing a taxi to get to our Spanish classes by 8:00 a.m. Although this can be challenging, I personally enjoy that living farther away forces me to see other parts of Cuernavaca than what is near CGE.

Living with Cuernavacan families gives us a unique insight into Mexican culture. As many may guess, living with families gives us insight into what foods people commonly eat, what a typical schedule looks like for particular family members, and how family members interact with each other. But culture is something that covers many aspects of our lives! As large and small groups several students explained humorous miscommunications they've had with their host family. Communication is not only different because of the language, but because of cultural aspects as well. Cultural differences over all have forced us as students to evaluate our own cultural practices in communication and otherwise. For example, it's expected in my home stay to greet my host mom with a kiss on the cheek whenever I leave or come home. This at first felt a little awkward, but the more I thought about it and the more I got used to it, I started to think of it as no different than a hug which is the common greeting in my own family. 
Downtown Cuernavaca

                Navigating cultural differences can be difficult at first, but despite the miscommunications or cultural differences it seems like the families truly enjoy having us, and we enjoy staying with them. Overall, after being here almost a month, it's nice to explore and absorb more of the beautiful city as a group of students or with our knowledgeable families.

- Emily Uecker, student


  1. Hi Emily!
    I am glad to here you are doing well! We miss having you in class. Thanks for the pictures, too! You guys are so TAN!:)

    I enjoyed reading your post about the cultural differences you have observed so far. I liked how you equated a hug (in your culture) to a kiss on the cheek in Mexican culture. It seems like you're facing any challenges you come across because of cultural differences with an open mind. I think that's really important for learning purposes!

    I hope that you have a great host family, and it sounds like you're learning a lot!

    See you when you get back!
    Rachel Amundson

  2. Thanks for posting the photos, too, Emily -- feels like being there with you all.

    Tony Bibus (Augsburg College)

  3. Emily, you did one of the most difficult things and expressed in words many of the feelings that, at least in my experience, accompany moving in with a new family. It is amazing to me how quickly we adapt to our surroundings. After living in CEMAL for only three weeks, moving in with my host family felt like I was leaving “home” all over again. One short week with my new host family and I feel this is my home. Adjusting to these changes—location, culture, language, routines, etc.—has been made much easier because we have each other as a support system. Each day we are able to share our learnings and challenges with each other because we are in this together. As social workers, it is so important to remember the experiences Emily shared. We have to remember what it feels like to be surrounded by a foreign language, an unknown culture and a new environment because as we have learned through readings and speakers, many people make these transitions on their own without direct support systems. I hope hold on to the importance of kindness and understanding in such situations because adjustments are challenging.

    -Laura Holdrege

  4. Emily, Thank you for sharing your experience. It was entertaining reading how they do things differently compared to America. I would have a hard time adjusting to the food, transportation, and daily routines. It seems like you are adjusting pretty well.
    Its funny how a kiss on the cheek seemed weird at first, but as you continued to do it, it became more normalized.
    Glad you are getting along with the family that you are living with! Hope you continue to learn new things and most importantly, have fun!!!

    -Rhys Dilenschneider

  5. I heard in class this week a quote that echoes in my mind..."When you travel it strengthens your heart". I too had worries regarding my urban home stay, such as the language barrier, rejection, and the busy transportation system. Natural feelings of anticipation and fear took over me my first night in their home, and I wondered how I would make it through four weeks.
    I think back and somewhat chuckle at myself now because for each challenge or difficulty presented, a chance for growth has developed. By spending time with this welcoming group of people, I have been privileged to help cook and eat in their kitchen, share laughs over the different communication styles and the language misinterpretations, and become a part of their daily routines. I have bonded with them in a way that, at first, I never thought possible. In return for my time, I have been given the gift of kindness, affection and support that is irreplaceable.
    With open-minds and open-hearts they have extended the sense and importance of family to include me. It has been so wonderful to have the opportunity to see and hear the cultural aspects that affect their everyday lives. The things I have slowly adapted to are merely a sliver compared to the stories I have heard. It has widened my awareness that acceptance and adaptation is a journey for everyone. In the process of gaining understanding, appreciation and knowledge of new surroundings, the necessity of my heart getting stronger resonates throughout my being. It has opened my eyes to see new and unique things in the bold and intricate tapestry of life, and enabled me to start weaving the many thoughts, aspirations and ideas I have into its fabric.
    - Amy Amsler

  6. Emily,
    I enjoyed reading about your experiences thus far and appreciate your perspective. Actually living in another culture connects material learned in a classroom in a meaningful way. You're right about living farther away being a greater challenge and that it will add to your experience. I like the warmth of their practice of giving the host mom a kiss when leaving and returning. Reflecting on your feelings/reactions in adjusting to so many new things is a helpful way to better empathize with immigrants having to adapt to the U.S. and Minnesota. This semester in Mexico will surely add to your "cultural competence" and I hope the rest of your time is very rewarding!
    John W.

  7. Emily,
    I like that you are taking living farther away as a new learning experience rather then a negative. Some people could see living farther as a hassle but you seem to be welcoming it to see more and new surroundings as well as practice Spanish and learn the transportation system better. Also sounds like the gathering with all of the students and the host families was fun as well as beneficial. I like how you added in that there are cultural and language barriers that the students down there will experience first hand. being out of ones comfort zone helps us to learn new things that we may not have otherwise. I'm sure also you all are having a lot of fun exploring your new host city and making many new friends in the process. Hope that you enjoy the rest of your time there!

    Whitney Goddard (Augsburg College, student)

  8. Our homestay experiences are almost through for several people and for some have already ended. I think that these experiences have been amazing in many ways for all of us. You explained perfectly how many of us were feeling that day when we first went to our home stays! Since then I feel like there has been many challenges for all of us as well as many amazing, wonderful moments. It has been a great experience. Laura said it well too that as social workers we especially need to remember the way we felt being in another culture that we're not used to. I laugh at how nervous I was the day we met our families because now I feel like I really am truly part of their wonderful family. I'm glad you are figured out the ruta and had a good four weeks with your family!
    -Kayla Wolff

  9. I think it is wonderful that you are embracing the Mexican culture so wonderfully. Mexico is very different from the United States, from the culture to the way people greet each other and it is very nice to hear that you are becoming accustom to the different culture. I feel that if you full experience a culture, not normally experienced, you can understand it more than if you read about it or hear from others. Experiencing Mexico and the Mexican culture with for sure help or better your social work career.

    Crystal Trevino

  10. Emily-

    I am glad that you have been able to experience and enjoy the vast Mexican culture. I'm sure it was difficult to acknowledge that "navigating cultural differences can be difficult at first, but despite the miscommunications or cultural differences". As American's we think that because we live in a "melting pot", it should be easy to communicate and have relationships with other cultures, mainly because as a society, American's think that everyone else wants to be American. It is great that you have been able to have this experience and have learned so much.

    Susan Martin - Augsburg College

  11. The photos are great emily. I cant wait to see you when you get back.

  12. I think it's wonderful that you take every challenge and turn it into a positive experience. I bet living Cuernavacan families gives you a broad and different insight in the Mexican culture, and that you are able to adjust to the cultural differences by for example comparing a kiss on the cheek with a hug from your own culture. Awesome!

    Augsburg College