Students of FIE: Martha Villarreal

Martha Villarreal

Mexican | Latina | English as a Second Language
CN Martha
Martha Visiting Windsor Castle

Hello again! Today’s post is about the lovely Martha Villarreal. She is a Junior at Marist College majoring in Fashion Merchandise and minoring in Business and Global Studies. She was born and raised in Mexico, so English is her second language. This is also her second time abroad since she is studying abroad in the States as well. Continue reading to hear Martha’s journey, advice, and more! Have fun!

How did your identity affect your decision to study abroad? Was it difficult?

“It wasn’t difficult because I already went to college [in] the States. It was a little bit of an easier process. I was scared to go to the states when I was going to college because [I knew the people] were going to be different than what I’m used to back home. I did get a little bit of a culture shock, but I’m really happy that I came. I think it was easier to come here than to come to the U.S. when I was younger. I feel like as I got older, you just know who you are, and it’s easier.”

What made you choose London?

“I was really interested in the internship opportunity I would get here, so that’s why I chose to come here. It’s one of my favorite cities.”

You are already studying abroad in the States. What made you want to study abroad in a second country?

“I like learning about different cultures. I grew up with the American and the Mexican culture because I lived really close to the border, so I have been going to the States since I was months old. I just wanted a change, so I decided to come here and learn about a new culture. It’s been really good.”

So far during your abroad experience, how has being Mexican and Latina shaped your study abroad experience? Were there any highs or lows?

“It has made me really proud of who I am because I’ve seen Mexican restaurants and things like that. It’s the most authentic Mexican things I’ve seen, I think more than even in the U.S. I think it’s because London is such an international place. There are people from everywhere, and I think that makes it a little unique for me at least. I went to a Mexican restaurant called Wahaca which is one of the states of Mexico. It’s really good, and it really tasted like home. I’ve never had such an experience where I wasn’t home. In America, it’s very different, and it’s more Americanized-Mexican food. Here, I felt like it truly was a Mexican dish, so I have had a great experience with that.

“Lows, not really, but I guess in certain cases some people only use Mexicans as stereotypes. I have been told that I don’t look Mexican, but I have been told that for such a long time I’m used to it. [I’d like people to] maybe be more open-minded, that not all Mexicans look like the stereotypical one. That’s the only low thing I could say is that sometimes people [say,] ‘You’re not Mexican.’ I am, once I open my mouth, I am. It’s just I don’t really look like [what] people think Mexicans should look.”

Has FIE supported you before or during your time abroad? If yes, how so? If no, how could they?

“Yes, especially with the writing center. They have helped me a lot because I’m very good at ideas but sometimes my writing [isn’t as great]. English is still my second language. I learned it just as much as I learned Spanish, but it’s still my second language. It’s been really helpful to have somebody just read over my papers before I hand them in.”

You said the internship aspect really drew you in to study abroad in London. Can you tell me more about your internship?

“Yes, I’m very happy with it. I got an internship with OK! magazine which is a very important magazine here, and I am in the fashion and beauty section. It really has been so fun and so interactive. My boss and I get along really well. I just learn a little bit about the fashion industry and a little bit about publishing newspapers, magazines, and how that’s a whole industry to itself, so it’s been really good.”

How has that work experience been compared to working in the fashion industry in the States?

“It’s a very different working environment. In New York, everything’s fast, everything’s for tomorrow, everything has a deadline, and I’m used to having to work at a very fast pace, very focused, driven to your work. Here, all my bosses say that I work too fast. I think it’s a culture thing because in America [I work] perfectly fine. Here, everybody’s a little more chill, down to earth, they take everything slow, it’s more of a chit-chat environment. Whereas in America, everything is about work, we’re all working, so that’s an interesting thing that I’ve noticed.”

Would you recommend other students who were born outside of America to study abroad?

“Yeah, I would encourage everybody to study abroad. I think it’s an amazing experience, and I think it opens your eyes that not everything is how it is in your hometown or your city. There’s way more things to explore. I would encourage everybody to break the shell and explore new culture, live in it for a semester. If you can work, work. Just be open to new opportunities. I was very nervous about my internship, [but] I love it. I got such a good experience out of it, so be open.”

What advice do you have for future students studying abroad?

“Enjoy your semester abroad. Be open to any experiences that may come to you, either it’s work, a culture thing, new restaurants, new people. Go meet British people. You don’t only have to have the people in your flat. Enjoy it because it lasts not a long time.”

Is there anything you wish you knew before coming abroad?

“I wish I knew a little about the weather. I mean I knew about, I’ve been here before, but I wish I knew a little about the weather. I feel like I researched so much that I knew everything that I had to do coming here about FIE specifically, but for London, the weather is all over the place.”

With two weeks winding down, is there anything else you wish you could have done?

“Meet more people within my building. I feel like everybody has different schedule, so it’s hard to interact as a building. There are so many people; the flats have ten people. Yes, it’s hard, but I feel like maybe have more events of everybody together, like a bonding thing to make new friends. It’s all the people from my school, which I didn’t know coming here, which is fine. Now, I’m friends with ten more people, but it would’ve been nice to get to know [students] from other schools.”

What has been your most difficult moment?

“I got very homesick, which I was surprised about. Whenever I’m in New York, I never get homesick. I LOVE New York; it’s my dream place to live. When I got here, I think I’m too far away from home where if something were to happen, it’s at least eleven hours to go back home on a plane. It did make me a little bit anxious, but other than that, that’s the only thing. I think it’s an everybody thing because people in my flat are starting to get a little homesick. For me, I’m used to it because I’m already abroad in New York, but it’s different here because we’re so far.”

Is there anything else you would like to say about your study abroad experience?

“I had a lot of fun; it was a good time. I wish more people could experience what [we’re experiencing]. I feel like some people are like, ‘Ehhhh, I don’t want to go abroad,’ but it’s very eye-opening, like there’s a queen here. Everything is so different. There are royal babies. Now, Meghan Markle. You can see how everything’s coming together because Harry married an American. It’s like a culture merge which is something that happens a lot here. [It’s] something I really like because I was walking around and saw people from every religion, every culture, every everything. It’s been fun; it’s like New York.”


I hope you can see Martha’s love for learning new cultures and for London through her interview. Her journey demonstrates how eye-opening studying abroad is and how it is so worth it! I hope you had a lovely time meeting Martha. Today’s challenge is to make a new friend! Say ‘hello’ to a friendly stranger. Get to know that person you walk pass all the time but never say anything to. As always, email me at if you have any questions or want to share your story. See you soon!


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