St. Thomas study abroad students return early from Oaxaca, Mexico

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It's been a week full of anxious moments for parents of a group of University of St. Thomas students studying abroad in Oaxaca, Mexico.

It's been a week full of anxious moments for Jesse Rodriguez.

"She's a daddy's girl so she's been calling me and Facetiming me," he said of his daughter Crystal, a University of St. Thomas student who was studying abroad in Oaxaca, Mexico.

Seeing his daughter arrive safely deserved fanfare in his eyes. It was her first trip without her family.

"She fell in love with the city," he said.

Her sisters and mother were also there for the hugs and tears.

RELATED: St. Thomas students caught up in Oaxaca, Mexico protests

"It feels good to be back home," Crystal said as she arrived to balloons and flowers from her family.

Crystal's study abroad program with other University of St. Thomas students in Oaxaca, Mexico, took a scary turn. Over the weekend, demonstrations from a teachers union grew increasingly violent. The teachers were protesting sweeping education reform in the country that includes testing teachers. In some areas the displays became deadly with more than a dozen killed and a hundred wounded.

"I was pretty nervous because it can get really bad. I was scared they might want to take them hostage as a bargaining chip. That's when I told her to stay in the hotel and don't leave," Jesse Rodriguez said.

The students say the most violent incidents were not near their hotel but they had to stay inside because demonstrations were close. The university decided to bring the students back for their own safety. Dr. Jo Anne Meier-Marquis was with the students on the trip.

"I think parents were worried not knowing what was going on. Sunday was stressful so we were talking to parents on Sunday; then the media clips we were seeing looked like it was right there, but we were in the demonstration but not the violence," she said.

Dr. Dominic Aquila, Provost and Vice President Academic Affairs University of St. Thomas said, "The University's concern was always about insuring the safety of our students. The university celebrates the professionalism of the faculty who led the study abroad."

It was an unexpected change in a planned trip, but the students say they learned resilience and how to lean on one another.

Crystal Rodriguez said, "It was different. We aren't used to that here in the U.S. What they are dealing with is different than what we are dealing with."

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