Skye - Tecnológico de Monterrey

B International Studies
Semester 2, 2018

Academic experience

I had a lot of elective credits left in my degree at UQ and was lucky enough to have a wide range of options to choose from. I studied six subject (two in Spanish and four in English) at Tec de Monterrey, Mexico City campus: International Organisations and Institutions, The regional scenario of Latin America and the Caribbean (Spanish), Contemporary Literature and Society (Spanish), Contemporary Art and Culture, Environment and International Relations and Contemporary Philosophy and Thought.

I found the academic system at Tec to be very different to that of UQ. For me studying at Tec was more like high school as you had to attend all classes and if you missed a certain amount of classes they would fail you, medical certificates etc. were not exemptions for this rule. The learning environment in class was also very different as you mainly sat in a classroom and listened to the teacher. Assessments were presentations and projects, while at UQ it’s more essays and exam focused. Once I got use to giving presentations I enjoyed the more practical based work as it focused on real life and professional application. The teachers gave out a lot of homework with small percentages towards your overall grades, if you keep track of these it is easy to manage. While there were many small assessment and homework piece the expected quality was not high, further adding to the feel of being in high school. It was quite confusing what the teacher expected from the students in terms of assessments and homework, but this also meant more creative freedom and less dependency on the teacher. It was also easy to contact the teachers or other national students for further assistance, all who were more than happy to help.

Personal experience

Studying at Tec provided many opportunities to develop personal and professional experiences. Our exchange cohort was smaller than previous years, which I believe was an advantage as you got to know everyone. Our exchange group became very close meaning there was always someone to study or go on weekend trips with. Living in Mexico City presented many travel advantages as it was the center of the country for transport. This gave me the opportunity to travel to many place around Mexico and close to Mexico City.

For improving my Spanish language skills I did not take a learning Spanish class, which I now regret. I did, however, take two classes in Spanish and found that helped my listening skills, especially as I had teachers from different parts of Latin America with different accents. I would highly recommend taking a learning Spanish course as living in a Spanish speaking country you have the opportunity to apply what you learn in class and develop it further with the locals.

Accommodation

I lived off campus (there is no on campus accommodation) in a share house with six other international students and one Mexican student. There was the option to stay with a host family, which is really good for a full cultural experience and to improve your Spanish skills. However I wanted to meet new people and live in an environment with other like-minded students. I absolutely loved living in a share house, my roommates have become some of my closest friends and we lived close to the campus making it easy to get to and from classes especially when I finished at 10pm.

I would highly recommend finding your accommodation after you have arrived to Mexico City. For the first two weeks I stayed in hostels (one week before orientation I stayed in the city center and during orientation week closer to the campus). This worked best for me as I got the chance to look at multiple accommodations and meet the people living there before deciding where I wanted to live. I also wanted to wait until I had my finalized timetable to decide whether it was better to live close to university or if it was okay to commute. The area around the campus was not as nice as the areas in the center where a lot of other international students lived. However, there were a few share houses around my area so there was always someone to split an Uber up to the city center with.

Costs

How much you spend in Mexico depends on you, it can either be extremely cheap or a little expensive, however never as expensive as back in Australia. You can find cheap accommodation or something that is the same price as back home depending on the area and type of accommodation. I lived in a more middle range room for approximately $430 AUD a month. I had a double bed, decent size room and my own bathroom and toilet.

Public transport in Mexico City is extremely cheap, it will only cost a couple of dollars to get from the center to the university. The public transport in Mexico City is very expansive and easy to navigate making it perfect to see the whole of the city. However, if sometimes you do not feel like tackling the mass of commuters Uber is your best friend. It is very cheap and extremely safe! Never once did I have a bad experience with Uber and would highly recommend using it. If you wanted to go into the city center it was also easy to fill an Uber with other people that wanted to go too, cutting the cost down significantly.

It is cheaper to eat street food in Mexico than shop for your own groceries. A basic lunch or dinner would cost between $1.50-$5. However, no matter how amazing Mexican food is, eating it constantly can get repetitive and the lack of vegetables and amount of cheese can get too much after awhile. I would say I did 50/50 of making my own food and eating street food. Although buying groceries yourself can be more expensive, it is nice having a home cooked meal with something other than meat and cheese.

Flights in Mexico were not as cheap as I expected, though the country is not as big as Australia it is still quite big. Its always best to book flights in advanced for better deals and the bus system throughout Mexico is great and depending on the distance cheaper than flying.

I was getting Centrelink while I was living in Mexico, which really helped me out. It covered my rent meaning I could use the money I had saved, which was about $10,000, on traveling during and after exchange. For me this was the perfect budget as I never felt like I had money constraints and could really enjoy my time on exchange.

Challenge

Academically the biggest challenge was getting use to the system of Tec. Many times during semester, especially the first half, how they run classes and what was expected of you was hard to grasp. Most of the time there was not a clear outline of assessment tasks or exams, this meant patience and communication was key to getting through the semester. If I was confused about what was required I would go ask the teacher, sometimes it was still unclear. But it was okay because other students in the class were more than willing to help me understand what I had to do and explain how.

Professional Development

On a professional level I found that the academic focus of presentations and practical work increased my confidence in speaking in front of others and my organizational skills, as in many cases you had to prepare quality work in a shorter amount of time. The practical based work at Tec has come as a professional and academic benefit as now I have more confidence in my speaking abilities and academic capabilities. Another development I made throughout my exchange was realizing the importance of networking and participating in events and projects that gave you a path to the professional field.

Highlight

It is hard to pinpoint one highlight as throughout my exchange there were was many amazing experience. However, overall living in another country was an absolute highlight. It was the best decision I have made and better than other travels I have taken. Living in Mexico quickly became home, in the end it was comfortable and familiar. I really got to know the city and the country in a way I never would have if i was just traveling. I got to see the culture from a point of view that made me truly appreciate it but also understand the realities of what many of the locals have to face.

Top tips

My top tips are just getting out of your comfort zone and say yes to new experiences. Living in a country like Mexico was completely different to my life at home and other travels I have taken. You are presented with some challenging situations but once you overcome these other things become less of a problem. The people you meet on exchange in Mexico are truly there for the experience and are extremely open, willing to join in and just say yes to everything! So say yes and don’t sweat the small stuff. However like anywhere in the world you have to keep your wits about yourself, there is a difference to saying yes to new and exciting experiences and putting yourself in dangerous situations.