In 1985, when Alberto Guajardo was preparing to begin his senior year of high school, he had never heard of Mobile, Alabama nor where in the United States the city was located. In his hometown of Monterrey, one of the three largest cities in Mexico, few of his peers were interested in the foreign exchange student program, but he was eager for the experience.

Now, at 55 years young, Alberto reflects on how Mobile and his hosts – the Guess family – and his immersive experience that molded him as the current Global Internal Control Director for a major corporation.

In 1985, the exchange student program veered Alberto’s life direction down an unexpected and fortuitous path. He was assigned to attend his senior year at Ben C. Rain High School in Mobile, where he would live with the Guess family. “The exchange student program doesn’t let you choose the city where you are about to spend a full year neither the family you are going to live with,” Alberto said, speaking to Visit Mobile via email and a Zoom call. “However, for me, it was like winning the lottery by being allocated in Mobile and with such a wonderful family.”

Alberto describes the Guesses as a family whose institution began with a wonderful marriage and he was thankful the couple had a son and daughter at home as well. “I will thank them for my entire life for treating me like their own son.”

It’s no surprise that Alberto learned a lot about Mobile’s culture and habits, but he says, most importantly, he learned about the value of raising a family with a foreign person in the home. “It’s been 39 years since I first visited Mobile and still have contact with my host family, and some of my good friends.”

When asked if the exchange program and Mobile, Alabama met his expectations, Alberto says it represents the most wonderful experience that marked his entire life. When he arrived, he did not know a single word of English and it was the first time he traveled outside his hometown. His arrival was an adventure from the beginning, as Hurricane Elena had recently impacted the area. 

Alberto Guajardo 2The Guess family did not hesitate to show Alberto all the city had to offer and Mobile began to shape his personality. He took quickly to learning English, which he says broadened his scope of possibilities in all matters, personally and professionally. “Nowadays, I can have a conversation in English with no problem at all, and I am proud when people tell me that I have a southern accent.”

It’s difficult to discern if Alberto has a favorite part or experience during his extended visit. “I got to know so many places while I was there, like the USS [ALABAMA] Battleship, Bellingrath Gardens, Fort Morgan and Dauphin Island, among others.” Not one to miss out, he even participated in the Alabama Deep Sea Fishing Rodeo and competed in the Azalea Trail Run.

Alberto learned what so many Mobilians already know – the cuisine is spectacular. “You can imagine the first time I had gumbo; I ate and ate and ate, it was so delicious,” he remembers. “Also, I never had grits and had no idea of what it was, now I miss them a lot. Eating all kinds of fish and deer fried, frog legs, soft shells, crawfish, boiled peanuts, watermelon, etc., everything was so delicious! The South has one of the best cultures in the country and that’s why I feel so attached to Mobile.”

Alberto did not leave Mobile behind once the program concluded. He closely follows everything related to the Mobile on social media, from the economic perspective to tourism. Of course, the Guess family also keeps him up-to-date on all things Mobile-related. “Knowing the city like the palm of my hand gives me the opportunity to help others either to invest, live or learn about such a beautiful city.”

Alberto signed off his email to Visit Mobile:

Best regards,

P.S. Roll Tide

Photos provided by Alberto Guajardo