Redefining “ish”

Desert terrain

Cayla McCoy: AU HS Sustainability in Action, Mexico

Had you asked me 5 years ago if I would have traveled to Mexico to study abroad, I would have called you crazy. Mexico was never part of my plan, yet was a place that refined my view of culture in new ways. I used to be an individual who had no desire to experience cultures beyond my own, but through my time spent abroad, I have learned what my family likes to call “the principle of ish.”

Plowing to rotate crops

I used to think that it meant going with the flow, but as I have interacted with different people groups across the world, it has gradually gained new meaning. It is with the perspective of “ish” that I can say, “How beautiful it is to be surrounded by a culture that is different from one’s own.”

Traveling overseas plays a huge role in my life personally as well as a vital role in my course of study as a Global Studies major here at Auburn, so any chance to go abroad is a welcome one. I’ve studied French, Italian, and Arabic, so naturally I thought I would go to a place that speaks one of these languages, but of course, I ended up going to a Spanish speaking country! Not only did I lack an understanding of the language, but I also had very little understanding of Mexican culture and society. That being said, I was definitely intimidated by the idea of studying in Mexico; however, the cultural immersion that I experienced through being part of a multi-national group turned out to be the most impactful aspect of my time there.

Making homemade tamales

Not only was there a team of American students visiting Rancho Via Organica, but there were also Mexican students who had come –both with the aim of studying sustainable farming practices. All of the students were dispersed into groups for the week that performed a variety of tasks each day in between lessons. It was through being part of a group that I got to see what it means to be Mexican. Not from inside the walls of the Haley Center, but from making homemade tamales, experiencing the culture of farming within Mexico and learning about its importance, dancing in a local market, eating street food, haggling with shop owners, taking long walks down rocky, dirt roads, and simply living life with a people whose culture does not look like mine. When I think of Mexico, I no longer think of a place, but rather I think of a people who have a vibrant culture.

San Miguel

It felt as though “ish” was something I clung to while I was in Mexico and yet it was constantly being redefined. I came to the conclusion that “ish” is to observe what is valued and emphasized within others’ culture and take the time to appreciate it rather than holding everything to your own standard.

While Mexico was not something I had anticipated, it has impacted me greatly and I look forward to further refining “ish” as I continue interacting with other cultures.

Auburn Abroad

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