Published On: Mon, Jun 26th, 2017

Commentary: The privilege of being able to move to another country

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Leonie Jarrett, currently Communications and Fundraising Manager at Na’atik Language and Cultural Institute in Felipe Carrillo Puerto, Quintana Roo, hails from London, UK. In this post for TYT, she shares her thoughts on the privilege of being able to move to another country.

I wound up living in Felipe Carrillo Puerto due to the opportunity to volunteer at Na’atik Language and Cultural Institute. Living here has been a magical experience for me. I have learned so much about the vibrant history and culture of this corner of Mexico and have been constantly overwhelmed by Maya hospitality.

Since being here I have been surprised at how regularly locals ask me why I am here — why Mexico? why Carrillo? don’t you miss your family? don’t you miss your country? Given that I am in Felipe Carrillo Puerto, this is perhaps a more warranted question than if I were in a town with a bigger expat community, but it still makes me laugh every time I’m asked it. Normally my reply includes reference to the food, weather, nearby beaches and cenotes, and the vibrant culture.

The writer with students at Na'atik Language and Cultural Institute. (PHOTO: Courtesy Leonie Jarrett)

The writer with students at Na’atik Language and Cultural Institute. (PHOTO: Courtesy Leonie Jarrett)

Recently I actually sat down and thought about it properly: why am I here? The reality is partially because I can be. Coming to Mexico wasn’t that difficult for me. There was an initial financial investment of a flight, a few travel vaccinations and purchasing of travel insurance. Of course I’ve had to adjust to a new culture and learn a new language, but in my opinion that’s part of the appeal of living here! However, reverse my UK – Mexico journey and it suddenly becomes much more of a challenge.

As part of my role at Na’atik I have done research into the privileges of being a native English speaker and, I can tell you, there are many. Greater access to information and entertainment, access to educational and employment opportunities and the ease of traveling with the global language are all big ones. Then consider that most countries where English is the native language have strong currencies and passports and access to cheap international travel. It quickly becomes clear why it was easy for me to come to Mexico.

Leonie Jarrett taking a break with a few of her young students. (PHOTO: Courtesy Leonie Jarrett)

Leonie Jarrett taking a break with a few of her young friends in Felipe Carrillo Puerto..
(PHOTO: Courtesy Leonie Jarrett)



Meanwhile for many people in Carrillo, the idea of relocating abroad hasn’t even registered as a possibility. A lot of Na’atik’s local students – including adolescents and adult learners – have never ventured further than Merida. For the ones who do dream of traveling, the process of making it a reality is far harder.

One of Na’atik’s aims is to inspire our students to go onto further study, to travel and to be ambitious when considering local job opportunities and we know that with English language skills it will be easier for them to achieve these dreams. During my time at Na’atik I’ve been happy to see some of the students begin to explore these possibilities. Students like Ana Cristina. She has been studying English with us for five years and is a student in our most advanced class. Inspired by the ESL teachers of Na’atik, she now dreams of traveling to teach Spanish in Australia!

Although Ana Cristina’s journey to Australia will not be as easy as my journey to Mexico, I know it will be a wonderful life-enriching experience for her and, as an expat, I am grateful to be reminded that what’s been easy for me to achieve, isn’t so easy for my new neighbors.

By Leonie Jarrett for TYT

Leonie Jarrett is currently the Communications and Fundraising Manager at Na’atik Language and Cultural Institute in Felipe Carrillo Puerto, Quintana Roo. She hails from London, UK.

 

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