Cassie Farrugia

​Changing Perspectives

Cassie Farrugia - Oaxaca, Mexico

Farrugia2 copy.jpgTraveling to Mexico really opened my eyes to many things I had taken for granted. I feel I understand the education system of America much better now that I’ve seen another way of doing things and have had the opportunity to compare and contrast.  I learned about my own perceptions of Mexican culture and traveling outside the country in general. What I didn’t expect were the people we met in Oaxaca to have preconceived notions of what Americans are like. Looking back I feel very naïve, as I certainly stepped off the plane with expectations of my own.


I have never thought of myself as rich. Most my friends and I whine about being broke college students and quiver in fear of the loan debt awaiting us on the other side of graduation. It’s hard to keep things in perspective sometimes. When juggling an overfull course load, as well as club commitments and likely a part time job, it gets easy for us to think we’re owed more. Surely we deserve more relaxation, more money, more credit for being able to juggling school and home life? Going to Mexico was a chance to see how much more I have than many already.


Farrugia3 copy.jpgI spoke with a Mexican university student about how I was lucky enough t​o afford the trip thanks to a scholarship from Circle K. I went on to explain that I had worked in a soup kitchen with other club members a few times. She stopped me, confused as to how the U.S. could have homeless people at all. “Doesn’t your government pay for all things?” Apparently our stereotype as a country is that we are rich citizens of a powerful government. I was so happy to be talking to someone in Mexico without being held back by my own limited language skills to chatting about the weather or asking for the time.


Coming home I’ve realized that all the pictures I’ve taken and stories I’ve told don’t convey a tenth of what this trip was for me. As annoying as it sounds, you simply had to be there.  Even if I had filmed every waking moment, and forced people to watch while sitting in a sauna, they wouldn’t get the full experience.  I can tell them that an authentic Zapotec marketplace smells like chilies, goats and peaches. But it’s not the same surreal experience of actually standing amongst the jumble of unrecognizable languages in countless dialects.


A few friends of mine are teachers, who believe they can relate to a group of children looking up in complete adoration, though we were strangers mere hours before. But they don’t know what it meant to me when Gerardo spoke to me about his brothers, though I’d never heard him utter a word to his classmates or teacher. I can’t explain the emotion I felt as I was enclosed into his tight, wordless hug on the last day. He did not speak his goodbye so much as press it into me. I couldn’t share that if I tried. Some things are just for me.​