Christina Origel (LAS ’17) was one of six DePaul alumni to secure a Fulbright in 2017. The competitive program places U.S. citizens in countries around the world to teach, study or conduct research. Origel, who is based in Apizaco in the Mexican state of Tlaxcala, holds a teaching position at the Instituto Tecnológico de Apizaco. Below, she shares thoughts on her experiences so far.
Why did you decide to apply for the Fulbright U.S. Student Program?
Applying for a Fulbright was always in the back of my mind throughout college, but it seemed incredibly out of reach. However, as my junior year came to an end, I knew that I wanted to teach English abroad after graduating. Ultimately, I decided to put my fear of rejection aside and apply for a Fulbright because not only would it allow me to fulfill my desire to work abroad, but it would also connect me to a network of scholars and professionals that could serve as mentors throughout my career. I specifically chose Mexico because I am a third-generation Mexican-American, but I never had the opportunity to visit Mexico growing up. I wanted to improve my Spanish and explore the country that all of my great-grandparents were born in and where I still have many relatives.
What are your main responsibilities? What does a “typical” day look like?
Each day, I co-teach two to three English classes. Usually, this involves explaining the American pronunciation of new vocabulary words or expanding on a cultural topic related to the U.S. On my birthday, for example, I gave a presentation about how birthdays are celebrated in the U.S.
I also host tutoring sessions and conversation clubs every day to build deeper relationships with my students and even professors from other departments. I try to do something different with my students every day—one day we will play a board game, and the next we may be reading an article about politics in the U.S.
How did your DePaul degree in international studies prepare you for this experience?
My concentration in my international studies major was Latin America, so I did not come to Mexico completely oblivious to Mexico’s relationship with the U.S. My degree in international studies also prepared me to have sometimes difficult conversations about U.S. culture and policies. My professors in international studies and political science helped me develop a critical awareness of U.S. politics and culture, which allows me to have these sometimes uncomfortable, yet necessary, conversations with my students.
How were you affected by the major earthquake that hit central Mexico on Sept. 19?
I was so impressed by the efforts of Mexican citizens to give back after the earthquake. Almost everyone I know collected or donated food. When university classes were out of session for the three days following the quake, students and professors from my university still came together to collect donations.
What has been your favorite experience so far?
My favorite experience so far has been joining a CrossFit gym in my city. In mid-October, I volunteered at a CrossFit competition that my gym helped organize, and I might even compete in a competition in Querétaro in December. Joining a community-focused gym allowed me to maintain my passion for health and fitness while abroad, but it also introduced me to a great group of friends.
What has been the most surprising aspect of your Fulbright?
Surprisingly, although I’m far away from family and friends, I never feel lonely. I have found that students and professors are always willing to show me around Apizaco, and they often invite me to eat lunch or go to events on the weekends. There are also 59 other English Teaching Assistants placed throughout central and southern Mexico who I can visit on my weekends.