The University of Iowa

Student Reflections on First-Generation Abroad: Tip of the iceberg mindset

December 15th, 2014
vanessa ginther in mexico

Vannessa Ginther studied abroad in Guanajuato, Mexico

Hello prospective study abroad student!

My name is Vannessa Ginther, and I am a first generation college student and a Native American. I studied abroad in Guanajuato, Mexico in summer 2014. It was an experience I will never forget. I learned so much about Mexican culture, language and myself.

I first decided to study abroad because I am a Spanish major, and I knew I needed to become more comfortable in the language. I chose my study destination solely based on cost. That is important to me because I have to work and support myself. I knew I wanted to have a study abroad experience but going for an entire semester would set me way too far back financially. It just was not an option. So I decided on a summer program, and Guanajuato, Mexico was my cheapest option. But it was so full of rich experience. I am so thankful that I chose Guanajuato. The city is gorgeous, and the people are so welcoming and kind-hearted. A thing I loved about Mexican culture was the stress on mealtime and the value of sharing that time with family. Meaningful family time is beautiful.

vanessa ginther in mexico

I went to Mexico with a very “iceberg metaphor” mindset. I could see just the tip of a huge and intricate structure beneath the surface and out of my vision. I thought I knew what Mexico would be like, and I was very wrong. I loved seeing the diversity in Mexico. Often, Mexicans are portrayed very alike. This is not the reality when you actually see Mexican people. They are diverse in color, shape, dialect, and all aspects of life just like Americans. Throughout this experience, I learned about myself and the incorrect, preconceived judgments that I make about countries. It was humbling because I am part of an underrepresented group, and I should be most aware of the diverse differences.

I only have positive things to say about my experience, but being away also made me appreciate my home. I learned that I love being able to read everything and say everything I want to say. I was challenged in my way of not being fluent in the language. Not being able to fully understand simply written text was very frustrating. I was reminded then that there are illiterate individuals in the world and in my country. Expanding my world views was a great lesson I learned in Mexico.

My respect and admiration for Mexico and its culture have grown immensely. I appreciate my opportunity to go experience and learn about another world more than I can explain. I know that so many people do not get this opportunity, including my parents and my relatives. I will forever cherish my study abroad experience.


Vannessa Ginther

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