Lisette: Hello and welcome to NSE study break. I'm your host, Lisette, and today we are interviewing Maribel Lopez from - she's an alum from California State University Northridge and did her NSE exchange in Puerto Rico for fall of 2019. So, hello Maribel.
L: Alright. So we just have some basic general questions about NSE experience, um, I guess, with the coordinators, like and your exchange, and even if you want to like, you know, promote your home- your home campus as well. So, yeah, so to start: Where are your home - where is your home campus? And then where was your host campus?
M: My home campus is in Northridge. So, it's California State university Northridge. And my host campus was Rio Piedras. So, it was Universidad de Puerto Rico Rio Piedras. Yeah. Was it? Yeah, it was.
L: And then I guess, what were some of your favorite parts of the exchange that you went on?
M: My favorite part was - there was so many. But for sure meeting, like people from like different, like just been - I had never been outside of California or lived outside of California. So, just meeting people from like different cultures, different states and different, um, like people from all over the world was like very like eye opening. And also I feel like made me a little more openminded and, in that sense and just like, I, I feel like I learned more than I have learned in the like the years that I was in school. Because it was like a diversity of people.
L: Yeah. What did you think of your roommate? Like where were they from?
M: So, we're pretty close. My roommate was from Germany. She's actually an international student at her school in Minne- I think North Dakota. She was already international and studying internationally kind of. So that was really cool. Like, I had never like been friends with someone like outside of California or like my culture too. I don't know. But, um, that was really cool. She actually, I actually I - we got like really, really close. Of course, there was like little problems here and there, but we were able to talk it out. And we got along pretty well. And, she actually invited me back home after like our exchange is over. So that was really cool. Like I got to experience Europe for the first time with her and yeah, like it was, it was really cool. I feel like, I just felt like I was living in a movie. Like, you go to you go on exchange and then you like become like BFF’s with your roommate and then you like go and like back to their hometown. Yeah. It was really cool though. I think, I was really grateful for her because I think she was like very, um, like open. So that helped me a lot. Because I'm really, I was really homesick at some point. She was like very like, she was really nice and just like, she, I don't know how to explain it. Like I was, I think it was like, I think I've got a really good roommate for sure.
L: Oh, that's so great. I'm glad you were able to, you know, be good friends with your roommate. Um, besides that, you know, the other people you met in the exchange, were you able to kind of make friends like build that community as well? Um, with like students from Puerto Rico?
M: Yes, yes, yes. Yeah, other than my roommate, I became really good friends with other girls from different states. And I still talk to them to this day. Yeah. And then also friends from Puerto Rico. I got close to two, well this girl that I took a swim class when I was in Puerto Rico. I learned how to swim in Puerto Rico. And so I, one of the girls in my swim class, I became like really, really great friends with her. And then I had a mentor with the, it was called the Boricua like mentorship program. So, every international student or every person who was studying there had their person, like their mentor. I got really close to my mentor.
L: Oh, that's good.
M: Yeah. I still talk to them now and we just like, they're planning to come to California and then also like eventually like me going back, which is pretty cool.
L: Yeah. That's so exciting. That's good to know. You know, you had such a good exchange and good experience with NSE.
M: Yeah, I did. I wish I would've done it earlier because it was my, my senior year, so I wasn't able to like do it again. But I'm really happy that I like, just like decided to do it by myself. Cause I think for, for sure, that was one of the things that was stopping me from pursuing, like just going out of state in general.
L: Do you think, if you had done it earlier, would you have stayed for like another year or would you want to do another NSE exchange somewhere else?
M: I think I would have been another NSE exchange for sure. I wanted to maybe like live in for sure abroad like in Europe, like somewhere outside the U.S. That's why I chose Puerto Rico because it was still kind of like, even though it's a U.S. territory, like I knew that it was going to be different from like the U.S. You know? It was like, I was abroad but on NSE, but yeah. Um, yeah, I always tell the people that I met if they like, because they were younger than me. If they do like an NSE exchange, then I can like go visit them. You know, like living - I'll be living through them.
L: I guess, what was a challenge you had to overcome? And what did you learn about yourself by overcoming that challenge while you were on exchange?
M: I think just like making the best out of like the situation that I was in, because my first week that I was there, I was really homesick. Like I was ready to like come back home and I don't know, just like, like drop everything. Cause I was so homesick. It was like maybe the first, but it was the first week for sure. And then I would, that was, I think that was like the saddest days of my life. But for sure, just, um, having, like talking to my friends from back home and just like, I'm like, I'm already there. Like just like kind of like, you know, like it's going to, like, it's always, whenever you start something it's always hard, like change.
M: Something that I learned about myself that I don't really, adjust well to change. [inaudible] but to think about like, okay right now I feel this way, but it's not going to last forever. Like I'm here for a reason and like I'm already here. Like I already made it here, now let's see like what's out there. So, for - so I'm really glad that I was able to, I remember cheering up to like, just like get myself out of that or think that way and get myself out of like a runt for a little bit. But, um, yeah. And then like after like meeting people from like different, like from the U.S. And just also like just meeting, meeting people, then it was, it was a lot better. And having my roommate for sure. Cause she was a person I was like talking to every day for maybe like about like two, three weeks. And then I was like able to open up to like other people from the exchange program.
L: I was going to say, Oh, that'd be great. Especially for the people that are going to watch this that want to do an exchange to know like it's not abnormal, you know, to feel very homesick. Or like, to take some time to like, you know, get out there and be more extroverted to meet the other like exchange students and like...
M: For sure. I think one of the things I'm so happy that I did was journal. I started a journal as soon as I like went on the airplane. I put like how I was feeling. I would just write about everything whenever I felt homesick. Whenever I like miss my friends or whenever I did something like very exciting.
Maribel: I would put everything down. So that did help me like kind of like even I felt like, you know, like when you go somewhere and you feel like you don't, you don't have like your best friends there or like the person that you always go to. And they don't really, and it's like calling them, they don't really understand because they're not in like your shoes, like they're not with you. So that for sure, like, let me help me, like just like let my feelings out. Like anything that I was feeling.
L: That's good. Yeah. I think that'd be like a great idea. I wish I would have journaled on mine to, you know, really remember like, you know, even when the bad parts, when I was like homesick as well.
M: Yeah, I did definitely put the good, the bad the in between. I put everything.
L: I know I loved; I loved the fact that you journaled. I thought it was so cute. I guess my next question is, I guess, what were your favorite campus traditions you got to experience while on exchange? Or even just you're favorite like Puerto Rican traditions you got to experience.
M: Well, something I really liked is that they would say buen provecho (Bon Appetite!) every time, like you would be, somebody saw you eating something, they'd be like, Oh buen provecho! That's definitely one of the things that I like missed when I came back home. Because back home in LA, everyone's in a rush. Like even if you were in a rush, you're like, Oh, buen provecho, buen provecho. They would acknowledge you; you know? Also, I feel like life was a little more like slower. Like, not everybody was in a rush. Like people were willing to help you. I got lost the first day that I was there and they were like some girl, like she, um, she just like walked me all the way to my class. And she like showed me and stuff. And then also, um, people like being really curious. Like they love - Puerto Ricans, I noticed that they love people who visit Puerto Rico. And they're like really curious on like why they chose Puerto Rico. Why you know, like, just like, it's such a small island. Like why did you come here? And then the food, the food was amazing. Mofongo was my favorite. It's plantain. Uh, I don't even know how to describe it.
L: It's like the mashed plantain and some kind of like meat with like the Criollo sauce or something.
M: Yeah. Before I went to Puerto Rico, I was like, uh, like bananas, like that much. Obviously, plantain is different, but I was like, I'm not going to like that. Like, I don't know how I'm going to survive that, but now I miss it. I want Mofongo.
L: They don't have any Puerto Rican like restaurants?
M: I'm sure they do, but I just haven't found a good one.
L: Ah, yeah. And then I guess my last question would be, why would you recommend NSE to other students?
M: I would recommend it because I loved it. I feel like going to study somewhere else changed my life. I learned a lot. I met like really great people. I learned like, not only about like other cultures and like, like being away, but also about myself. Um, yeah. And then also it just kind of like makes you like, realize that there's like bigger things. Like there's so much more to just like where you live, you know? Like getting zone, um, and just like pushing yourself to do more than what you're used to. You know?
M: Every person I've talked to and that like is younger than me at school like when I came back, I'm like, you, you should like try to study abroad. Like do it. Like I loved it. I'm so happy that I got a really good experience. Even though it was hard at some times. But like, I mean everything in life, like everything is going to be hard, you know?
M: Like, at first or like at some point. But yeah, I feel like it changed my life for the better. And also like more confidence. I gained more confidence in myself because I had to put myself out there. Cause I'm shy at first and I'm very skeptical about like at first. I was just like, okay, like in my head it's like, okay. Even if I'm shy, like I'm going to like talk to these people because if I don't talk to them and I just wait for them to talk to me, then I'm not going to make any friends. Then I did that. And I just feel like I, I just kind of, I kept speaking with them when I came back home too. Cause I'm very outgoing, but I am shy at first. And people don't notice it, but I can feel it. I just like I'm shy.
M: You learn a lot about yourself and it also makes you appreciate like your mom's food or your like - whoever, like whoever you live with, like their food, their company, like your family and your friends. And just do appreciate everything so much more because you're such like you're so far away and you can't just like drive out and like talk to your friends. It’s hard.
L: I totally agree. And yeah. That's great. I definitely think those are really good reasons to recommend NSE. So just to learn more about yourself and even just like a new place, you know, especially if you've never been outside of your home state.
L: Do you have any other last, you know, advice, comments about your exchange? You want to hype up your home campus for an exchange?
M: Oh yes. CSUN, Northridge is a really good school. I loved it. I, even missed it, like whenever I was abroad, because obviously like, like an American school was going to be different from like a, I don’t know, like even though it's a U.S. territory, like it was really different. Like the culture was different. Everything was different. The classes, the language! I wish - that's one thing that I do regret is even though my first language is Spanish. I didn't practice my Spanish as much as I should have. But my Spanish did get a lot better.
L: That's good.
M: But, I would recommend, I would recommend Puerto Rico. Cause there's a lot to do.
L: Do you have any last comments?
M: Just journal. If you go study abroad, wherever you go, journal. Write down your experiences. Even if you're lazy. You're going to be like later you're going to look at it like, no, like there's some things that I obviously, you don't remember every single thing in detail of like anything in your life. So then like, just like having some- like somewhere to like look back and just like read stuff. You're like, Oh my God, like I remember this. You know like it's just really nice to have it written down. Yeah. Just looking back at it, like, like my diary. But you know like right now, like 10 years from now, I'm going to look back at that and I'm going to be like, Oh, like I did that. You know? So journal, journal. That's something that I would recommend. And take lots of pictures. Doesn't matter where you're going. Take lots of pictures. Be curious about yourself. Curious about everything. Just like ask a lot of questions. And put yourself out there.
L: Solid advice. Thank you, Maribel, for joining us today and thank you for all those that are watching.