Reflections from Puebla In spring 2020, students returned home from Puebla early due to the COVID-19 global pandemic. They reflect on how the experience, though short, impacted their lives.

Kevin Gallagher, Business Analytics

Before coming to Puebla, I wasn’t sure I was making the right choice by leaving Notre Dame. Over my two months in Puebla, though, I quickly came to realize that I made the right choice. My initial fear and inhibition have been replaced with heartbreak, fueled by the knowledge that I won't be able to grow as close with my host family, friends, or Mexico as I would if everything went according to plan. I hope we have the opportunity to reunite soon.

Kelby Bosma, Sociology

The two months that I spent in Puebla were some of the most challenging yet rewarding and best of my life. In the two weeks before I left I really was starting to feel comfortable using my Spanish, and then I got the news that we would be coming home. My main goal of coming to Puebla was to make meaningful relationships, grow in my cultural understanding and improve my Spanish, and I lost a whole two months of this chance.

Ocran Holloway, Spanish

My short two months at Puebla was one of the most formative and enlightening experiences of my life and is one of the best opportunities I have taken advantage of at Notre Dame. I will always look back at my time in Puebla with a warm heart and my only regret is not being able to have more time with my Puebla family in the beautiful country of Mexico.

Leah Gudex, Neuroscience and Behavior

Puebla has meant so much to me . I’ll remember the close bonds made as we pushed ourselves past our comfort levels. These experiences all occurred in a time of fear and exhilaration, but also a time of growth. It stretched us to understand ourselves in new ways, and these challenges fostered even deeper connections between us ND students and, of course, with Lisette. It’s incredibly difficult to avoid thinking of what could have been had we all had more time to grow together as individuals and as friends.

Bobby Hernandez, Philosophy and Theology

The two months I spent in Puebla were the highlight of my college experience. I had wanted to study abroad in Mexico since I was in high school, hoping to use the time to learn about my family culture and language which I never had the chance to really experience while growing up. it was very much a personal and even spiritual journey as I learned about who I am. I had the opportunity to really live there rather than be a tourist. Nonetheless, in some ways, no matter how fantastic it was, I feel that I lost a golden opportunity not just to learn Spanish but to make true and genuine relationships with the friends I made there. It is therefore my greatest desire to be able to return and continue my journey, because as things stand I feel as though I was interrupted before I could finish what I started.

Maya Elliott, Political Science

I distinctly remember the unshakable feeling of uncertainty leading up to my departure for Puebla. However, as soon as I arrived at my host family’s house on my first night back in January, all my fears dissolved. What really defined the program for me was the relationships I formed. I was fortunate enough to make lifelong friendships in Puebla, and that is what I find myself missing the most. Puebla became a second home for me so quickly because the people there felt like home, and for that I will always be grateful.

Dani Kolkebeck, Marketing

My two months in Puebla awakened not only a new appreciation for my own culture but also a love for a country so near to our own. I think that's why leaving so soon felt like leaving a part of me behind. At UPAEP, I was able to make Mexican friends in most of my classes - who were all so helpful whenever I inevitably struggled - and found that speaking came so much more naturally to me by the end of our short two months. I knew something had changed when I wasn't nervous when speaking Spanish on my own. I think what I will miss the most about my two months in Puebla is doing all the little things with the people who mean the most to me.

Michaela Echols, American Studies

I will always treasure my study abroad in Puebla. There were many challenges, like navigating a new culture, improving my Spanish and getting acclimated to an entirely new academic and social environment. I would not have been able to confront these challenges if it weren’t for the support system that accompanied me. Although what has happened has been out of anyone’s control, it doesn’t mean that we have lost grasp on the friendships we’ve cultivated, the learning that has taken place or the growth that has begun. we will continue to be connected.

Eleanor Gamble, Political Science

Choosing to study abroad in Puebla was a difficult choice at first. I made the decision to leave purely because I wanted to improve my Spanish skills--two months later, and I have come home with so much more. Nothing could have prepared me for the city Puebla is, from the historic center with cobblestone streets, to the large ferris wheel that looms over our neighborhood. UPAEP was a beautiful campus, and every Mexican student I met was incredibly friendly, offering an abundance of help as I adjusted to a new normal away from ND. I will always be grateful for the memories I made and the time I spent in Puebla.

Sorin Horvath, Political Science

I went into the Puebla program looking to gain greater cultural competency and improve my Spanish, but one of the greatest surprises of my study abroad was the meaningful friendships and relationships I was able to build in just two short months. From my host family to the students at the university, everyone embraced me with open arms and helped me whenever I was lost or confused. I was able to learn the value in displacing yourself in another culture and gained a wider global perspective through my experience in Puebla. I will cherish the time I had there.

Grace Martin, Finance

After landing in the Puebla airport for the first time, overwhelmed by the immediate cultural and linguistic shift, I thought to myself, “Did I make the right decision?” However, when we landed at my host mother’s house, and she welcomed me into her home as if I was one of her children, I immediately relaxed. All of the students were placed into a country that was incredibly different than ours, and it was with them that I grew more than I thought I ever could. I am a better, more culturally competent, socially aware, stronger, and happier person. There has been no experience in my life that I am more grateful for- and I cannot wait to go back.

Trey Andrews, Finance

I will always remember my time abroad in the Puebla program. The fact that my time was cut short there by two months dismayed me intensely. I'm glad to have met my host mom and program coordinator Lisette. My time there helped me learn to embrace new experiences and accept new cultures. I believe that my abilities to immerse myself in Spanish speaking and even more alien circumstances have been enriched, and I only look forward to creating stronger relations with those I've met.

Learn more about the study abroad program in Puebla and #GoFurther