I must admit, before I arrived, I was a bit skeptical. My mother was worried about relations between Mexico and the U.S. surrounding the border and possible retaliations against U.S. citizens while I had heard many tales from Mexican Americans about the gangs in Mexico. I was a bit nervous and may have asked my U.S. coordinator once or twice if it was safe to come to Merida, Mexico. This concern seems comical now in comparison with my experiences these past two months.

Ironically, I have never felt safer in my life—as a female, that is saying a lot. Everyone is so incredibly kind and helpful everywhere you go! There is an amazing and safe night life as well as plenty of things to do and see during the week and over the weekends.

Even I--who was sick a majority of the time from Lyme disease that I caught in Michigan--was able to experience so much joy and culture in the few weeks I was healthy. Everyone from my host family to the school to my coordinators to my doctors were genuinely empathetic and concerned for my health. I never felt alone once nor scared that maybe I should receive treatment back home.

At the school, I was involved in literally everything! I participated in/MCd some of the assemblies, was a judge for the Halloween broom contest, got to wear my host mom's traditional garb for Hanal Pixan and made Pib and "xek" with her! Some teachers also took me out to celebrate my birthday and the kids made me feel so incredibly loved with their songs, hugs, and beautiful drawings/letters! I have so many work-friends--including my CT who is hilarious!

I got plugged in with one of the few Methodists churches here and have met so many amazing and supportive people there as well who prayed so hard for my recovery!

I am so incredibly thankful to all of the people I have met here—including my boyfriend, Javier. So many people told me of others who studied abroad and fell in love, but I thought, no, that won’t happen to me. Well, I was wrong, and I am so happy I was. The lights, the people, the sights…I consider Merida the Paris of Mexico…but then again, I’m biased.