Mexico | First Few Days…

By Andrea Zheng

Greetings from Mexico! Today is the second day I’m in Mexico as I landed last night. I met my mamá right off the plane and she even had a little sign made for me (how cute!). Driving back to the house, she started introducing herself, telling me about Merida, and what to expect for my next month to come. My Spanish was a little rusty to say the least, but she was very nice about explaining words that I didn’t know or repeating things until I understood what was going on.

On this second day, we met at the school that we are going to be having classes in, Tecnología Turística Total. This school is an adorable niche that you wouldn’t expect to find in the bustling downtown of Merida. There’s a little fountain right when you walk in and a cute patio area in the back to relax during the breaks in class. Check out the Typical Day in the Life blog to read a little bit more about classes and homework for this program.

After getting a small tour of the school, it was time to go on a tour of Merida. The first stop was the Plaza Grande, which is the main plaza in downtown Merida and the site of many of the activities that the city puts on. It’s only a few blocks from school (an easy 5-minute walk) and has places where you can buy souvenirs, exchange money, or (most importantly) get ice cream. Of course, we stopped at the colorful Merida sign to take a couple pictures (more like a hundred pictures to be fair).

To tour the city of Merida, we hopped on an open top tour bus, which took us on a 45-minute tour of the city. For the bus, I would 100% recommend sitting at the top because it’s so much better seeing the sites (and taking pictures) when you’re not sitting behind a window. Just make sure you put on LOTS of sunscreen and keep an eye out for low hanging tree branches so you don’t get smacked in the face.

Here are some of the highlights from the tour.

Paseo de Montejo

This famous avenue is named after Francisco de Montejo, who was a Spanish conquistador who founded the city. Along the road, the light posts have cute hanging flower pots and there are many local shops, banks, and old buildings. One of these old buildings is the Quinta Montes Molina – Casa Museo, which the house of the Molina family that also functions as a museum.

ADDED NOTE: When we later got a tour of this museum a lot of the rooms had hammocks or hooks to hang hammocks and I learned that the hammock is actually the preferred method of sleep in Merida due to the ventilation it provides during the stuffy nights. (Catch me adding a hammock to my Amazon cart ASAP).

Churches in Merida

While in the downtown area, there were four different churches within a four block radius, highlighting the importance of religion in Merida. The most well-known church is the Cathedral of Merida, which was the first church to be built on mainland America. This church sits on the border of the Plaza Grande and was built using parts from the original Mayan temple that it now replaces.

Ice cream shops

This needs no explanation 🙂

After a long day, I’m ready to get into bed (unfortunately not a hammock) and start getting ready for school on Monday!

Andrea Zheng studied abroad in Merida in Summer 2019.

Mexico | Let’s Get Ready!

By Andrea Zheng

Hey guys! It’s a few days out from my flight to Merida so it’s time to start preparing. Here are a few tips on things to bring and NOT to bring on this trip. First thing to know about Merida is that it is hot, hot, HOT. Not only that, it’s also very humid. This means that the main attire will be t-shirt/tank top, shorts, and comfy walking shoes. DON’T bring a lot of heavy sweaters and jackets, because even at night, it’s not cold enough to wear those. There will be one fancy thank you lunch for the lovely host mamás at the end of the trip so pack at least one nice outfit (button up shirt, sundress and sandals, something along those lines).

I’ve never been on a trip that I didn’t over pack for, so of course, I packed over 30 shirts and more than 10 pairs of shorts. This is definitely not necessary, as there are laundromats near the houses you will staying at as well as laundry machines in some of the houses, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry!

Also, don’t forget a swimsuit because there will be MANY trips to the beach, both spontaneous trips to the beach 45 minutes away from Merida and planned program-wide excursions to different beaches along the Yucatan Peninsula. Along with a swimsuit, it’s a good idea to bring a towel, sunscreen*, and some flip-flops.

Even though it’s hot in Merida, that doesn’t mean there isn’t rain. There will definitely be thunder and lightning storms so be sure to bring an umbrella and rain jacket to pull out when necessary. Along with rain comes mosquitos, so don’t forget insect repellant to help protect from bites, otherwise you’ll be itching all night long.

Of course, there is also the school side to this program, so be sure to prepare any materials for class that you might need, like notebooks, textbooks, and pencils/pens. While talking about school, I would advise that you try and finish all the homework you can before the program, as this will leave you more time to explore and experience the city while there.

Don’t forget to leave a little extra space in the suitcases in case you’re looking to buy some souvenirs while in Mexico.

Make sure to check with your doctor to get any prescriptions filled that you may need on the trip and make sure you keep them in their original bottle so you don’t have trouble with airport security.

A few logistical things that may need to be done.

  1. Make that you have a passport that won’t expire until at least 6 months after the trip. And if you don’t have a passport, make sure to get one (or a visa) ASAP!
  2. Check with your bank to convert some dollars to pesos for your trip, or ask about their policy for getting money out of the ATMs in Mexico (transaction fees and such).
  3. Check with your phone company about their policy for using data, texting, and calling in Mexico because you might have a plan that can be used in Mexico with no extra fees. 

With my bags packed and flight checked into, I’m extremely excited for this trip and can’t wait to have you guys follow along as I spend the next month in Mexico!

*There is a trip to Xcaret where biodegradable sunscreen is the only type that you can bring in, so it may be a good idea to check Amazon for acceptable brands. Alternatively, you can just buy sunscreen when in Xcaret. 

Andrea Zheng studied abroad in Merida in Summer 2019.