By Paulina Macías Coutiño (Chiapas, México)
There is always a first time for everything, as a Professional Fellow I have learned that the first times are full of challenges and new experiences.
Being a Professional Fellow has presented me with a lot of first times since the beginning of my time in the program. It is the first time that I have travelled to another country, and for me, that means constantly learning about the language and crossing cultures with people from different parts of the United States. My first week in the United States I came to Massachusetts, where we had multiple activities and learning experiences at the ITD House; New York City on the weekend, and yesterday I arrived in El Paso, Texas.
Today started my Fellowship at The Center for Inter-American and Border Studies (CIBS), which is part of the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP). It has been very enriching to meet different researchers and young leaders who specialized in border studies. I have begun to get involved with the residents and, despite it being a border area with my native country, I will have the opportunity to learn about the culture of the families that inhabited this region as Mexicans before becoming part of what we currently know as the United States.
I am very grateful to Professor Josiah Heyman, director of CIBS, who will accompany me during my fellowship and will connect me with different people who are doing research or extensions, or both, in agricultural practices. This will be a great opportunity to make enriching and lasting connections with my colleagues in Chiapas.
It will also be a great opportunity for personal development, living alone for a month in this new city. I thank ITD for placing me in a university community, very close to my workplace and, above all, in a safe place to live and walk the streets alone. Still, getting lost in a big city like El Paso is not very difficult; however, I have met people who have helped me find my way back home. The hospitality of the people in the neighborhood, it´s another gift for me.
I believe that the PFP is giving me the tools to grow both professionally and personally, by the simple act of traveling. I have learned about the history of the places I go, the culture of the different families I visit, and have formed close relationships with the other fellows who are in El Paso.
It is the beginning of my second week at the PFP and every day has filled me with first times that reaffirm that I continue to evolve and grow. I can’t wait to bring back everything I have learned to my workplace and community in Chiapas.