Catherine - Tecnológico de Monterrey

Bachelor of International Studies
Semester 1, 2018
Exchanging to Mexico was the best choice I could have made for myself - let it be your best decision too!

Academic experience

I took 5 classes when I studied at Tec in Mexico City; Advanced Spanish, Geopolitics, International Organisations and Institutions, International Humanitarian Law and International Politics. The full time work load is 6 courses but the Spanish Language classes are ‘intensive’ and count as two. The work load is very different to UQ. I found that the classes were easier however there was lots of homework and assignments which were very time consuming. 

The classes at Tec are much smaller and conducted in a way very similar to tutorials at UQ. This allowed me to get to know the other classmates and teacher much better and also gave a lot of opportunities to ask questions. 

The enrollment process is only difficult if you make it difficult. During orientation week you will be given a revised list of courses available (most of which won’t be advertised online). If you go into your subject selection with an open idea of what classes you'll take, then you’ll have no trouble picking classes which are relative to your major and give you a long weekend. I saved both of my electives for my exchange which made my subject selection less stressful.

Personal experience

Being in Mexico immensely improved my Spanish. Before going on exchange I had taken 4 semesters of Spanish at UQ which set me up nicely for my exchange though I wish I had pushed myself more with Spanish while I was in Mexico. I regret not taking a class in Spanish (apart from my Spanish language class). Many people did this and said the extra effort paid off. 

I feel as though simply being in a city is big and chaotic as Mexico City made me grow a lot personally. The hustle of Mexico City took me a little bit to get used to, but by the end of my semester I felt a lot more confident and more culturally aware of how developing countries operate. Don’t let the reputation of the country stop you from getting over there. Yes there is corruption and it can be dangerous, but if you have a bit of common sense you’ll be fine and will avoid any sticky situations.

Accommodation

I lived with a host family and absolutely loved it. I would definitely recommend this to people who are wanting to improve their Spanish skills. I found my host family through the host family program that Tec organises. My family didn’t speak much English so it threw me in the deep end and forced me to speak Spanish from the moment I stepped off the plane. It was also great for having a better understanding of the culture. I received home-cooked Mexican food and got to visit the parts of the city that usual tourists wouldn’t know about. The program cost me $500/month which is a little bit more expensive than if you lived in a share house, but all my food was included and I got to practice Spanish 24/7 which made it totally worth it for me. 

I would also recommend living close to the campus rather than living close to the centre of the city. The first classes of the day begins at 7am and the last classes finishes at 10pm, so living close to uni is convenient in case you are timetabled for one of these classes. Tlalpan and Coyoacan are both good neighbourhoods to live in and are close to campus. It is also very helpful to live near a metro station because that will make it VERY easy and cheap for you to get around the city.

Costs

I spent $500/month for accommodation with a host family which included all my food expenses. The most expensive part of my exchange were the regular weekend trips I took. Despite this adding up to quite a bit, the trips were definitely worth it. I would say that I spent around $6000 in total over the 4 months of my exchange. Although my costs were below the proposed amount by UQ, it is wise to prepare more savings in case you over-spend, though generally Mexico is very cheap in comparison to Australia.

Professional Development

In Mexico, I learnt to always expect the unexpected. By getting thrown into situations that I wasn't prepared for, I learnt to think on the spot and adapt to a different way of thinking. Understanding different cultures is helpful for everyone and having an open mind will be immensely beneficial for anyone pursuing a career in International Relations. 

The style of teaching at Tec is also much more practical than theoretical. Many of the assignments are in groups and required presentations. From this, I improved my public speaking and communication skills. Most of the professors at Tec also have a wealth of practical experience in their field and can share stories, give advice and share an insight into the type of work you might be expected to do when you finish your degree. For me, this was the thing I enjoyed the most about Tec. My professors shared a range of experiences including backgrounds as a Cuban diplomat, an international lawyer and head of delegation for the Red Cross. Hearing their experiences was very inspirational and has opened my mind for more options for the future.

Highlight

The highlight for me was staying with a local family. Getting to know them, the culture and city added a lot to my experience. Simple things like eating home-cooked Mexican food and taking a drive around some of the colonial neighbourhoods of the city were amazing experiences that I wouldn't have done if I had lived elsewhere.

Top tips

Mexico is much more diverse than what you might think. Embrace the history, food, music, nature and indigenous culture that Mexico has to offer. You won't regret it. 

Choose the right campus for you! There are many campuses which offer different fields of study and a range of benefits depending on the location of the campus. I would recommend finding a campus which advertises extra curricular activities which suit your interest or is in a region of Mexico which offers something for you. I suggest you choose your campus based on this rather than the subjects it advertises because its likely to change once you get there.