Cynthia Arochi Zendejas
Ethnicity - Mexican
Occupation - Mentor, Social Multipreneur, Freelancer
Place of Employment - Evolve Abroad, Isde digital, The Forum on Education Abroad
Years in the field: 15
What global experiences have you taken part in when you were a student and/or a professional?
My very first global experience happened when I was in high school, when I took part in an exchange program with Canadian students for four weeks and learnt topics related to environmental conservation. This was organized by the Ottawa Museum of Nature and Xochitla, an ecological park I worked for.
Afterwards when I was at college, I had the opportunity to go to France as “fille au pair” for a year and lived with a French family taking care three children and studying French. My third overseas experience was living and studying for a year and a half in Sweden when I was granted a scholarship to study a master’s degree in Environmental Sciences.
After this experience, I came back to my home country in Mexico and started to work for a British company in the field of volunteer tourism, where I got to interact with a lot of participants mainly from the UK, North America, and Australia. I worked there for 14 years, living in Costa Rica for the last four, and spending a couple of summers managing the programs in Greece too.
Since a year ago, I have been working in Mexico, mentoring international students virtually which has been a new experience equally rewarding. I am also involved with different entrepreneurships with people from Nicaragua, Argentina, Peru and South Africa.
How has Global Education impacted you and your career choices?
My very first academic exchange experience to Canada, to learn more about different initiatives related to Natural Conservation, reinforced that this was the professional path I wanted to follow, to dedicate my life to environmental conservation and animal protection and so I did. I continue in this field teaching and raising awareness on this type of topics.
Also, the experience of living in France, Costa Rica, Greece and Sweden, getting immersed in different cultures, sometimes speaking the languages and some others not understanding it, helped me to mold my character, to become more independent, to take responsibility on my life choices, to be driven and to become a “professional” problem solver. Every time I came back to Mexico those experiences helped me to stay focused on my goals, to be more empathic and to share with my peers different points of view which helped to open their world view.
I remember one of my most impacting experiences was the second day that I was in France I wanted to go back to Mexico so badly that I didn´t care that it was one of my dreams come true, but I resisted, and it turned out to be one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.
I also learned to travel under a budget, this was important as I thought that traveling to Europe was only for people with a certain economic status, but I realized that there are ways to travel very cheap, and that if I managed to do it, I could achieve anything I wanted in life. It made me a travel addict but now every time I go to a different country, I like to learn about their challenges, their environmental, economic, and social issues, and this is thanks to my Master´s multicultural batch. I got so used to learn about their different cultures and countries that I always want to learn more.
What do you enjoy most about the work that you do in Global Education?
To get to know how each person thinks, about their life goals, and how they see life in general. I also love to witness how their perspective changes when they either travel or learn about different cultures and challenges in their home countries, no matter their age, everyone modifies their world view even a tiny bit after being exposed to different languages and cultures.
What challenges have you had to overcome as you work in Global Education?
To meditate when people get frustrated or when conflict arises due to different habits, behavior or language, to make both parties understand the difference in cultural connotations or time perception for example. For instance, when a plumber or a mechanic says that they would come at 9am the next day, normally in the Uk or USA it would mean 9 to 9:15am, but in Latin America it means 10ish at its best, or when people don´t say "no" because they don´t want to hurt the feelings of the other person, so they say "yes" but don´t do it at the end.
How has your cultural identity impacted your experience working in Global Education?
My way of talking and thinking has become more western and practical. However, I preserve my Mexican identity and joyfulness which people tend to like when I am in a very British, European or American environment.
I also try to try to make sure everyone in the room understands what I say and what I mean, so I tend to explain it in two different ways or when I say a word, I also say it in British English and American English if my audience comes from different countries.
How has seeing other people of color/diverse backgrounds in Global Education inspired you?
It is not common to see people of color in Mexico, and there is normally no discrimination in a bad way against people of color. However, we discriminate ourselves and people that have indigenous features. My global education and experiences made me appreciate more my culture and my Mexican origins. I advocate when I see injustices and I try to help vulnerable people. I am also more empathic when I see a foreigner in my country so I try to help them and explain how things work in Latin America so it is easier for them to navigate the country/culture.
As a Kultural Kurator, what does culture mean to you?
It's the way you think & act based on your history, education, customs, language & experiences.
Self/Soul Care is important as we live our lives and do this work. How do you incorporate self/soul care into your life?
When I feel exhausted I try to prioritize things I like to give me energy to continue. Normally sharing knowledge, and mentoring people gives me energy, specially when I see them interested in the topics I talk about, and when I see them evolving and growing as they learn.
What advice would you give a future Kultural Kurators as they think about working in this field?
It is an extremely rewarding field, it opens your mind, your world view and makes you a more empathic person. We have a say in Mexico: each person is a different world themselves, so imagine you have the opportunity to know so many worlds that come from so many cultures; not everyone has this chance so to have the opportunity to absorb the best of each one of them is unique, so make the most out of it!
How can others follow you on social media, website, and/or is there an email address that you'd like to share?
If you are Person of Color who has studied, interned, worked and/or lived abroad and would like to be featured on Kultural Kurators we welcome you to complete our interest form.