A baguette filled with a salsa of cultures

Martin Lopez Melendez
October 5, 2021

If you were to be me for a day abroad, trust me, you would have a blast!!!! Let's start by talking about community, because that's something you are always going to have wherever you go. I found an amazing community not only within the program, but also locally. I made local friends that got me connected with other people and now I'm involved in activities I have never tried before, including a make your own clothes workshop where I sew clothes from scratch. I am always willing to take risks and learn something new, even when I am afraid. Part of that embracing of uncertainty comes from my background. I had to move from Mexico to the US at a young age without even speaking the language nor knowing the culture, so having that experience has definitely helped me in this new home. 

One of the ways that I keep in touch with culture is definitely FOOD!!! What a wonderful word, ¿Qué no? Even better when this word can be translated directly into French and any other language, because we humans just love food! Here in Paris food is a big part of the agenda. It comes in different sizes, colors, shapes, tastes…have you ever had a baguette with some nice French cheese? Even if you are lactose intolerant (like me), you won't be able to resist it. On that note, to be me in Paris is to bring three types of food together into an amazing combination that I get to have for dinner after a long day of classes. US-American food + Mexican food + French = paradise! It's great to be able to have some chilaquiles with baguettes and hash browns for breakfast (as weird as it sounds it's good). Dinner becomes even more fun when we prepare a galette with mashed potatoes and salsa! I think this could really develop into a restaurant in the near future. I love that my background gives me more opportunities to experiment while having fun in the process. 

Another important aspect of my identity is culture.  Ok, with this one I'm going to be a little biased and focus more on the language and dancing (my interests of course). I find salsa and bachata dancing nights to be the places where I feel connected more than ever to my culture. I love the interest from French people towards learning Latino dances. It's a great experience to now be able to teach dance not only in Spanish and English but also in French. I feel proud of having a combination of cultural skills that I get to share with the locals here. It is also great to have two languages of reference that help me learn French. When I don't know how to say something, I think of the word in English then pronounce it with a French accent. If it doesn't work, then I use Spanish and bingo! This technique works about 75% of the time. 

Most importantly, being in Paris is to show the world that we are all citizens of the world and that our nationality does not always define who we are 100%. There is more to it. There are places we have lived, people we have met, things we have experienced that make us part of this diverse world we live in. I feel really proud of my background and all the identities that I carry with me. I think that anywhere you go abroad, there is always going to be an identity that you have in common with other people. There you will realize you have found a community.

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Martin Lopez Melendez

<p>My name is Martin and I am a 20-year-old student studying at Lewis &amp; Clark College in Portland Oregon. I'm majoring in World Languages with my two main languages being French and Russian and minoring in dance. I was born in a small rural area in Mexico and immigrated to California when I was 13. At age 16 I embarked on a 2-year adventure at the United World College USA located in northern New Mexico. I love talking to people, seeing and learning about new places. In my free time, I love dancing, reading, working out, and spending time with friends. I am also a goat lover and consider myself a goat expert.</p>

2021 Fall
Home University:
Lewis and Clark College
Coalinga, CA/La Piedad, Mexico
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