This has been an amazing experience!
I have fallen in love with Mexico City. The food, the people, the places - everything has been unreal! As an international student, I have always loved getting to meet people from different cultures and travelling so this experience has been truly excellent. The makesense team have been nothing but welcoming and kind to us. They have helped up every single step of the way, especially with our projects. They have been like my family in Mexico which has been really really nice :))
Throughout this experience, I think that the leadership skills I have developed the most are definitely empathy, problem-solving and adaptability.
I really learnt how to empathise with indigenous communities and really put myself in their shoes to understand their struggle. I may not be able to do much, but what I can do is spread the word about their community so that at least more people are aware about it because they know themselves that one day, their community will be extinct. It is so inspiring to be able to listen to a female indigenous community leader speak about despite their struggles, they will continue to fight relentlessly because they continue to exist - 'we resist because we exist.'
In terms of problem-solving, we have had a lot of obstacles in our way during our project which we had to overcome by problem-solving. I displayed this skill the most during the focus group and the carnival where I learnt to think quickly on my feet to solve the problems that came our way instead of panicking as I learnt that that was not productive. I had to improvise and hold bingo sessions during the impact carnival as we didn't have a crowd to present our presentation to and try to make it informative by asking Rodrigo to speak about Nidaria at the start and by playing a video showing how Nidaria converts food waste to animal feed.
Adaptability is the main skill I have really honed during this project. I have learnt to not lean on my plan and use it as a crutch but to instead use it as a guide. It was really important for me to be flexible and to adapt because sometimes things don't turn out the way I expect them to. Most of all, it was crucial for me to stay calm even when things don't turn out as planned. As a perfectionist, this is really hard for me to do; I have been learning to improve upon this skill, particularly during this trip. For example, with the focus group, we were constrained by time so I had to cut out the ice breaker part and some other follow up questions I wanted to ask the participant and to instead choose 2 important questions that ended up sparking a really good conversation.
I enjoyed my project, especially after having expanded our mission to encompass more activities. The most difficult aspect was trying to balance everything because I think we had quite a lot on our plates, which was quite taxing for us. Nonetheless, we managed to finish everything and carry out all our activities to a high standard, including the focus group and the impact carnival. Even though it was stressing and sometimes we were scared that no one was gonna show up, like for the focus group, or that we were terrified that no one would show up for the impact carnival, me and Cyrus worked well as a team by delegating tasks and giving each other deadlines.
I also found surveying people quite arduous because my Spanish skills are quite limited. My confidence got knocked down every time someone declined doing my survey. However, I do understand why they wouldn't want to complete it. Though I found surveying people quite better when I asked them the questions myself or asked them to complete the survey on my phone. Next time, I would prefer to have a volunteer with me next time whilst I survey so that they can aid the language barrier better.
I also really enjoyed engaging with volunteers and leading them through our activities. I particularly enjoyed having Pablo, one of our volunteers, co-host the bingo sessions at the impact carnival.
My favourite place in Mexico would definitely have to be either the Frida Kahlo museum or the National Palace. I have visited a lot of museums in Mexico City and have been a full on tourist during my stay here which has been a really nice way to make the most of my trip whilst I am here. However, I am definitely burnt out from museums after visiting around 15 here. We were given a tour around the National Palace in which the tour guide explained each one of Diego Rivera's murals which was so informative and insightful. All the murals were stunning!
My favourite food would have to be the chicken flautas from La Casa del Toño. They were mind-blowing! But also the al pastor tacos from Taqueria Orinoco were life-changing! I love the food in Mexico and I will definitely be missing being able to eat 20 pesos tacos at any given point in time.
My favourite moment from Mexico was going to the Mazahua community, hearing about everyone's stories and trying to empathise with them. I was quite fond with a little girl who I basically adopted for that day. They were all so welcoming to their community and really treated us as if we were part of their families. They even cooked such good food for us and showed us around their land. That was a truly memorable experience for me that I'll never forget. The way they were all so grateful for us for coming to their community and being with them was so heart-warming. What they don't know is how much they have impacted me as well - especially the children. I hope to be able to spread word about their community so their community lives on.