Students pose at the top of the Pyramid of the Moon at Teotihuacan.
Corona del Mar High School

Exploring the wonders of Mexican culture

Travel is one of the most highly regarded methods of learning. History classes and textbooks can teach the facts, but it is not until students immerse themselves in the diverse culture of a foreign country that they truly discover the impact of travel on one’s education. World travel provides an enriching opportunity for students to develop their world views and learn foreign languages.

Corona del Mar teachers Shondra Pulido, Elisa Ramirez, and Shauna Triggs are strong believers that travel greatly enhances learning. Over the last few years, they have taken students on educational trips to Spain, Peru, and now, Mexico.

“I chose to go on the Mexico trip because it was a great opportunity to go to a place I’d never been and experience a different culture firsthand,” said eighth grader Connery O’Neal.

“I thought the trip would help me improve my Spanish skills, which it did. Plus, I try never to miss opportunities to visit foreign countries,” said sophomore Nathan Fallahi.

The trip began in Mexico City, a colorful city with a rich history. While there, students saw their history textbook come to life as they explored the Aztec ruins. They traveled to Teotihuacan where they climbed the Pyramid of the Moon and gazed out at the city beneath their feet. The students quickly began to develop an appreciation for the grandeur of Mexican history.

They also visited the National Museum of Anthropology, home of the incredible Aztec Stone of the Sun, and several local markets. The students took this time as an opportunity to practice their Spanish.

“I spoke Spanish at the markets to bargain prices with the vendors. I’ve never experienced anything like that before. I could never imagine that happening in the United States or especially in Fashion Island. They would think I’m crazy!” exclaimed O’Neal.

“In Mexico, you were expected to barter with people, but in our country, people would turn you down and be offended,” explained sophomore Ivara Roth.

Before they left Mexico City and headed to the Yucatan Peninsula, the group had the unique cultural opportunity to participate in a tribal ritual and learn to make homemade tortillas and guacamole from local chefs.

In the Yucatan, students learned about another ancient tribe: the Mayans. The group traveled to a local village where they visited a traditional home and received a lesson in medical uses for the native flora. They also visited the pyramids at Chichen Itza and the Uxmal archaeological site.

“My favorite part of the trip was seeing the Mayan pyramids at Uxmal. Getting to stand in an ancient place with so much historical significance like that was incredible. The carvings and buildings are so old, yet so detailed,” said Roth, “our guide explained the significance of certain numbers in Mayan culture, which influenced the design of the pyramids. It was really cool because it showed just how important Uxmal had been since the Mayans put so much work into it.”

After touring the ruins, the group headed to Playa del Carmen for a couple days of relaxation. “I loved Playa del Carmen because the beach was absolutely amazing, and I loved walking around the streets and gazing at the storefronts. We woke up to see the sunrise over the beach one morning and it was the best experience. Everything was so laid back, and it was so relaxing,” commented O’Neal.

“Lying on the beach, watching the sunrise in Playa del Carmen, was one of the most beautiful experiences I’ve ever had,” shared Fallahi.

The students ended their trip with a fun-filled day at the Xel-Ha natural water park. Ziplining over the water and snorkeling were two of the students’ favorite activities. They all agreed that Xel-Ha was the perfect end to an incredible trip.

The trip gave the students the opportunity to form valuable friendships outside of the school environment. “Being one of the few sophomores on the trip, I had a wonderful opportunity to bond with the younger students on our trip. At school, it’s hard to get close to anyone outside of your grade, but on trips like these, those social barriers are virtually nonexistent,” said Fallahi.

“What I got out of this trip were friends and a better understanding of Mexico, as well as an improvement in my Spanish. It truly was an amazing learning experience, unlike anything I could’ve learned in a classroom,” shared Roth, “as a person, I feel like this trip gave me a better appreciation for foreign cultures and a sense that if I can go on a trip like this without my mom, maybe it won’t be so hard to live on my own in college and be independent.”

“I got a better understanding of Mexican culture and their history as a nation. It was amazing how much more you can learn from being there in person,” said O’Neal,” most of all, I made friends with so many awesome people. I became friends with some people I didn’t usually talk to, so this experience brought me closer with my classmates.”

Travel is an invaluable experience for students to gain cultural awareness and form lifelong friendships. The Mexico trip opened the eyes of the participating CdM students to the rich culture and fascinating history of their neighboring country. Most importantly, they developed a passion for exploring the unknown, which will hopefully lead them on several exciting journeys in the future.