West Virginia University
8 Jun

by Alice Foley

...This trip definitely did not get the same reactions as my others have. More often than not the reaction was, “Why?!” accompanied by a look of disgust. Once the disgust at my choice in location passed; fear and concern quickly followed. A few of my favorites were: ” Well, since you probably won’t make it back can I have your books?” “You’ll definitely have to go shopping when you get back, nothing will fit you since you can’t eat ANYTHING there!” and “I don’t care how much it costs, you call me every single day! If I don’t hear from you I’m assuming the worst. Its not safe there!”

No one ever really asked MY thoughts on going to Mexico. Honestly, they didn’t change much. I didn’t think for a second my school would facilitate a trip that would be unsafe in any way. Especially a law school – we’re lawyers, come on!

So after two beautiful weeks in what everyone seems to think is the scariest place on earth, I’ve decided there are some things you should know. Important things.

First: Guanajuato is West Virginia level nice. Every single person I met was SO nice, and so patient with my broken Spanish. I’m sure its this way almost anywhere, but learning a few words in the language where you’re going – and actually using them – will get you everywhere.

Second: You have to try REALLY hard to get yourself kidnapped. Guanajuato is just as safe as Morgantown. Not once did I ever feel unsafe. Plus, the police were as nice (maybe even nicer) than the ones in Morgantown. Every morning when we would leave the hotel for class the police officer that worked nearby would wish us good morning. Also, practically every part of Guanajuato is pretty well lit (except for the tunnels, but there’s really no reason to be down there at night).

Third: US doctors may be just a bit overzealous in their warnings. [this does not mean you can ignore everything they say and get sick – pay attention to how YOU feel] Chances are that as soon as you get to Guanajuato, you’ll order a drink, forget to ask for no ice, and panic when the nice server pours your drink into a glass full of ice. It’s not going to kill you. It probably won’t even hurt you. Restaurants in Guanajuato (most of them at least) buy purified ice.
Also, you will eventually buy something from a street cart; if you don’t you’re really missing out. This will also not kill you. However, you must use your brain. Buying something that will spoil from a cart with no discernible refrigeration will probably be a bad plan. Buying fresh fruit first thing in the morning is a delicious breakfast.

Mexico is a beautiful, wonderfully diverse, welcoming country. You really shouldn’t miss it.

2 Jun

Redneck Reflections on Mexico

Kristin | June 2nd, 2012

by Dustin S. Blankenship

Guana Photo

I grew up in Southern West Virginia. My daddy was a coal miner, and my daddy´s daddy, and his daddy before him. I grew up in a loving home and in a tight family. Yet, twenty-two years into my life, I had never flown or left the US, until this study abroad.

When I left, my mom was terrified. None of us knew what to expect. I think I anticipated going to one of those “Feed the Children” locations. I mean, after all, I consistently heard that Mexico is a third world country. I even had one family friend tell me that I should dye my hair black and get really tan so I didn’t get robbed. Flying for the first time was a breeze. It was kind of like riding a bus. The surprise for me came when we first entered the city. It was big, old, and beautiful. I think I murmured, “We´re not in Kansas anymore,” as we entered the city through the underground tunnels.

Guan Law Photo
More shocking than the locale, however, was the people. Everyone was so welcoming. I didn’t feel out of place at all. It reminded me of home as I walked the streets and was greeted with numerous “Good Mornings!” The people are much like West Virginians—resilient. West Virginia is consistently looked down upon as redneck. There are even educated people who don’t realize we’re a state (Brad Nesler). But, West Virginians are proud of their state and of their heritage. Mexican citizens are the same—very happy, and extremely proud. Guanajuato is a mining town on a hill, much like Morgantown, really.

I’ve had numerous great times and gotten close to so many people, both from WVU and Mexico. I´ll keep those stories to myself, for now (Sasha), but happily report that this is one redneck who gained his wings and discovered a love for a whole new element of life—world travel. As Greg Bowman said today, “The world is shrinking.” The smaller the global community becomes, the more important it is for all of us to grow with it.

Predator Photo
1 Jun

by Molly Russell

1. “We’re leaving at 12:30 with or without you.”
In West Virginia, when you are told class starts at 9:30 AM, you know that is when class starts. In the United States, time is prompt and punctual. Especially with law school because you always run the risk of being on-call for the rest of a grueling academic session. In Mexico, time is relative. If you arrive fifteen minutes late, remarkably you are still on time.

2. “This food is basically street meat.”
Hot dog vendors in New York City are like gordita/taco/quesadilla/churro/maize/tamales (any food you can imagine) vendors in Guanajuato. They are everywhere. Imad Matini, an upcoming 2L, officially dubbed any meat products available on the street as “street meat” and the name stuck. While warned of its numerous dangers from the WVU Office of International Studies, many of us indulged in the savory delicacies the streets of Guanajuato held.

3. “There is a big lunch waiting for you at the Tequila factory.”
Not all the food in Mexico had the scary potential for Moctezuma’s revenge. Delicious restaurants offering authentic cuisine were around every corner and were considered much safer than street meat. Not surprisingly, my favorite food from the trip, besides the healthy portions of knowledge being served daily by Professor Friedburg, was a steak in blueberry compote. Absolute perfection.

31 May

Personal Experience

Kristin | May 31st, 2012

By Jevon Romeo

Being the only African-American on the trip, I noticed the stares that I received while walking around town. It seems as though most people here have never seen a African-American before in their lives and at first all the stares were a little uneasy but as the trip went on I became used to it. I have been approached on two separate occasions to take photos with the locals and 2 kids asked me if I was from Africa as I was walking to my hotel room.

Another aspect of Mexico that I noticed was the poverty, being that I am from New York City I am used to seeing people begging for money in the street but I have never seen little kids asking for money like I witnessed here in Mexico. There is a serious poverty problem here and it was sad to see young kids tracking down adults for money or water. Most Mexicans do not have a lot of money so in reality it is really poor people begging poor people for money.

30 May

No One Likes A Gato

Kristin | May 30th, 2012

By: The student mistakenly known as Sasha

Life in Guanajuato
Is like a giant street taco
You never know what you´re gon´ get.
Please make a good choice ´n´
Don´t get the food poison
Ask for cooked meat and clean bread.

If you really do care
When someone sniffs your dark hair
Its probably ´cause you look gringo.
But if the the water runs out
And your shower won´t spout
No need to worry—you stinko.

We love our legal studies
And our new Mexican buddies
But the experience can´t be put into words
So if you´ve been thinking
About sunshine and studying drinking
Get on a plane with the birds

For you may dream of bad things
Or have strange kinds of slings
Or get cursed by the evil house gato
But you´ll have your own inside jokes
Forget about facebook pokes
When you get your ass to Guanajuato

29 May

Put Down the Cell Phone!

Kristin | May 29th, 2012

by Kristen Ross

I think it’s healthy to step back and disconnect some times. And if you want to make things really interesting, do it in another country far from home where you barely speak the language. I did not bring a cell phone, computer, I-Pad, I-Pod, or any other electronic device besides my dad’s 1982 alarm clock. Aside from the breath taking vistas, warm people, positive atmosphere, and informative lectures, the best part of this trip has been thoroughly enjoying my fellow class mates’ company. There were many students, even ones in my class that I had barely spoken three words to.

Now, we’re making plans to see each other in the summer and fall. It was just me and them (and occasionally Molly’s annoying adopted stray cat). No one went off to their rooms to facebook on their computers. No one had their nose constantly pointed down at a cell phone texting away. We sat around each other and told stories. We hardly do that any more. I heard some side splitting stories (Ryanne’s stab wound, Beatin Bobby, and DJ Sasha) as well as some heart breaking ones. But at the end of the day I feel like I finally know everyone and am proud to call them my friend.

If you want to build lasting friendships quickly in an exciting and sometimes intimate environment (the hotel was very close quarters), then come to Guanajuato.

29 May

by Eduardo Villacorta

Villacorta Image

The Mexico trip gets better and better. There are a lot of fun and interesting things to do around town. Guanajuato will captive anyone that visits it. The people and the vibe around the place is just amazing. I could write an entire blog on all the crazy stories, fun moments, exotic flavors and adventures in Guanajuato. However, I would rather write about something inspiring, I would like to talk about Manuel Hidalgo, the father of the Mexican independence movement. Miguel Hidalgo can be compared to George Washington; they were both extraordinary men that loved freedom and fought for it. Miguel Hidalgo was a catholic priest who went against the church, against the crown and against the established government. Hidalgo did all this for his love to the people and his love for freedom.

His quotes are inspiring and because I speak Spanish I was able to understand his quotes and I would like to translate and share his message to the people because it is still valid to the modern day youth. This is the speech he gave on the same church that I visited two days ago. “My friends and countrymen:

There is no longer for us neither King nor taxes. The shameful system that only suits for slavery and has endured for three centuries as a symbol of tyranny and servitude; is a terrible stain that we will wash with our efforts. It’s time for our emancipation, this is the hour of our freedom, and if you know its great value, you will help me defend it against the claw of ambitious tyrants. In a few hours you will see me marching at the head of the men who pride themselves on being free. I invite you to fulfill this duty! Without freedom we will never be able to experience true happiness. This is a necessary step and starts with something it has been necessary. The cause is holy and God will protect it. Businesses are being disregarded and I will not have, therefore, the satisfaction to spend more time talking to you.

Long live, therefore, the Virgin of Guadalupe!

Long live America, for which we will fight!”

Manuel Hidalgo was captured a few years later and shot to death by the Spaniards. However, he frees an entire nation and abolished slavery in Mexico 55 years before the United States. I am glad that I was able to read his life and work.

25 May

Lost in translation

Kristin | May 25th, 2012

by Hilary McConnell

Last night ten people thought that I was kidnapped by a Mexican drug cartel. After a group of law students returned from a night spent under the stars on a rooftop lounge, I was nowhere to be found in our hotel. I was not in my bed sleeping soundly, nor was I stretched out on a couch on the patio. I was not studying for the bar, nor was I reading a book. I was nowhere to be found at Parador del Convento. The other students created a search party to scour the city, hoping to find me unharmed eating street meat. They feared that I was kidnapped, or worse, attacked by a gang of marauding dogs. Their efforts were to no avail; I was still “missing.” When some were so overcome with the fear of my demise that they fell asleep, I walked up the steps of the Convento to glaring faces. I was scolded, grounded for the remainder of the trip, and sent to bed without my milk and cookies.

What actually happened? I was salsa dancing with another student. The one person that was told where we were going forgot. The name and location of the salsa club was lost in translation. In Guanajuato, no drug cartels prowl around the city looking for someone to kidnap. The gang of marauding dogs is actually a friendly stray here and there looking for a something to eat. The streets are full of people, especially at night when both young and old are seen sitting at cafes or on park benches, and police officers are seen patrolling the streets.

Our perception of the entire country of Mexico can be lost in translation. We view the country as dangerous because of the cartel violence and assume that the violence is rampant in every city. Like my friends who assumed the worst when I was not in my bed, we assume the worst without knowing all the details about a city in Mexico. However, when we arrive in a beautiful place like Guanajuato , walk the streets and get to know the details, we realize we jump to the worst conclusions possible. At the end of the day everyone ends up sleeping soundly in their bed regardless of being in Morgantown or Guanajuato.

25 May

Expect the Unexpected

Kristin | May 25th, 2012

by Emily Miller

Guanajuato is Morgantown on steroids.

Our professors warned us that Guanajuato and Morgantown were sister cities, but I did not expect so many similarities. For example, walking to our hotel, Parador del Convento, quickly reminded me of Price Street. Climbing six flights to only reach a computer lab at the university conjured up memories of the stairs at Life Sciences. Moreover, tasting tequila (160 proof!) at Tequilera Corralejo or hanging out at the Terrace Sky Bar with other students is like the party atmosphere found downtown Morgantown.

These similarities, although enhanced, were comforting. Feeling comfortable in a foreign country enabled me to experience it fully. For example, we joined a salsa class taught by a man named Pollo (yes, chicken). We also ventured into a local area and took a tour of silver (not coal) mines. We even went to the movies (one in Spanish, one 80% English). Additionally, we exchanged conversations (part Spanish, part English) with locals about music, food, and politics. Without the similarities, I would not have emerged myself into another culture as easily or as fast (two weeks).

Therefore, expecting Guanajuato to be similar to Morgantown will unexpectedly enhance your experience and will leave you with a richer appreciation of Mexico.

25 May

Life is All About Adapting

Kristin | May 25th, 2012

by Imad Matini

There are no clocks in Mexico. Seriously. Restaurants open when the owners feel like it; banks open late in the morning; even the roosters don’t know when to wake up. Being here, I have come to appreciate the energy and promptness that America operates in accordance to.

That being said, its little idiosyncrasies such as these about Mexico that made me realize why going on this trip has been one of the best decisions of my life. Life is all about adapting. And what better way to learn how to adapt than to go to another country for an extended stay and figure out how to function. I have had to speak Spanish, exchange currencies, dress a certain way, and figure out how to blend in as best as I could.

But adapting to a new place is not about surviving; its about thriving. So far, I have learned how to find my way around, make friends with locals, shop around for the best prices, and just how to overall appreciate and understand a new and foreign culture. We have had some outstanding lectures and I have met some amazing people, including Miguel Cotto, the prize winning boxer. But all that aside, the most valuable skill I have learned is how to thrive in a unique and very different country. And I could not have realized this skill without participating on this trip. Because of this realization, I hope to go on as many of these trips abroad as I possibly can.

About the Program

Legal Study in Mexico Blog

The Legal Study in Mexico program offers WVU College of Law and other qualifying students the opportunity to study international and comparative law in Guanajuato, Mexico. Lectures and seminars are led by WVU law professors and professors from the University of Guanajuato. All lectures are in English. The program includes visits to Mexican legal institutions, as well as classes at the University of Guanajuato and other locations around the city.

Interested in WVU abroad? You can also check out WVU’s From Abroad blog.

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