Home Sustainability News & Blog International Support Worker Students Prepare for Their Trip to Chiapas, Mexico

International Support Worker Students Prepare for Their Trip to Chiapas, Mexico

January 23, 2013

Meet Student Sustainability Blogger Emily Smith van Beek

By Emily Smith van Beek

Sustainability Blogger

A Month Away From Home

In the wee early morning hours of Thursday, January 24, the International Support Worker students and our teachers will board a plane for Mexico. We will be spending a month interning in the southern region of Chiapas. We’re all excited; there is some uncertainty, and some nerves. A lot of these emotions revolve around how to efficiently pack for a month away.  

What should we bring? What shouldn’t we bring? How will we deal with our new living conditions? How can we sustain our bodies, minds and souls during this one month internship?

To go away for a month and live in another country is a new adventure for most of the International Support Worker students. It will be more mentally, physically and emotionally challenging than any other journey we’ve taken. For most of us, as excited and curious as we are, there will be a lot of adjustment and culture shock.

I recently spoke with present and past International Support Worker students to get a glimpse into their backpacks, and with the professors to reflect on packing protocols. The most important factor is packing a bag we’ll be able to carry. We must obviously get in crucial items like medication and underwear, but in order to sustain more than our physical needs, we’ll also pack some items of comfort or luxury. We travel with the basics of the basics, but it’s always nice to have that one great book, some portable speakers, or deck of cards to remind us of home or to put our minds at ease. 

Many students listed a camera as the most important item they are packing.  Some listed it as their crucial item, while others said it was their item of luxury or comfort.  What an interesting dynamic of opinions. 

For me, I wear daily contact lenses. They’re a pain to pack; they take up a lot of space, which I could use for one extra shirt or pair of pants. However, they are crucial for me to bring as I couldn’t see without them, and if I can’t see, I slow down the rest of the group. My item of luxury will be nail polish. Not many things make me happier than having my nails painted, and I’m so happy to be going to a climate where it’s appropriate to wear bright colours during the winter!  

Almost anything we forget at home can be replaced in Mexico. I am purposely leaving space in my 45-kilo backpack so I can buy some beautiful, traditional blouses and skirts. So many Mexican families who sell their goods in markets rely on income generated through tourism for their livelihoods. If I am taking away so many new experiences while there, then I can definitely give back to help generate the economy. 

Take care, Belleville.  Adios, we’re out! 


(Many thanks to professors Kate Rogers and Rachael Curry, and to students Andrew Erskine, Gusharanpreet Kaur, Laura Rocoski and Janet Smallman for being a part of this video blog.)

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