Bachelor of Arts, 3rd year
Bachelor of Arts, 3rd year

Academic Experience

While in Mexico I studied 4 courses - 3 international relations courses and 1 Spanish language course. University in Mexico, at least at Tec, is slightly different. Classes are smaller, generally around 20 people, and are much more like class than a lecture. I really enjoyed this system, I knew all of my lecturers fairly well and it helped to make friends as you felt and others were much less anonymous.

The quality of each of the subjects does vary. A difference between Tec and UQ - lecturers at Tec are much more in control and pretty much run courses how they see fit and so the quality control is less stringent in comparison to UQ. This was both good and bad at times. As I said, courses could be worse for it - but it also allowed some flexibility as teachers were able to modify their classes to what interested students and even reschedule assessment to accommodate students.

Another thing to note about Tec's academic workload is the variation between campuses. Tec has something like 31 campuses all throughout Mexico and each have slightly different difficulty levels. Mexico City was generally regarded as one of the better taught universities yet not too difficult, whereas I heard that Queretaro campus has a much higher workload. I'd recommend trying to do some research to find out. Don't be put off Queretaro, I know people that had a great time there.

Personal Experience

Mexico is a complete surprise. In Australia you might picture Mexico as a desert wasteland run by cartels - while not entirely separate from reality, Mexico is so much more. It does have a lot of desert (and cartels (it's really safe though)) but it also has beaches, rainforests, mountains, waterfalls, caves, canyons (one 4x bigger than the Grand Canyon), amazing cities, Pueblo Magicos (my favourite), colonial architecture, beautiful churches, modern nightlife (esp. in Mexico City) and way more. Seriously, Mexico has so much stuff to do you could spend a whole lifetime traveling it and still miss half of it.

While in Mexico nearly all of the exchange students had at least some level of Spanish and tried to practice it at every chance they got. Both the time I spent in Mexico City and the time spent after traveling have helped my Spanish enormously. I genuinely believe I learnt more in the 6 months abroad than I did 2 years studying at UQ.

Going on exchange really gave me a different perspective, not just on my time at university, but of myself, Brisbane, and even Australia. I can't really state how much it does affect you. I went with the expectation of a good time and some memorable experiences and, having traveled quite a bit before exchange, not really expecting much of a head change like all the exchange ads say. I was wrong. The combination of casting yourself into a different culture, knowing no one and/or perhaps even the language, and dealing with the difficulties that come with that and inherent in living in a less developed country seem to calm the mind a bit and give a sense of confidence. Combining the fun times of exchange with the difficulties give an appreciation both of the host country and of Australia - it's a complicated emotion I would recommend experiencing to everyone.

Accommodation

At Tec there are no on campus living arrangements. Really, in Mexico City, there are two options - live close to the university in the south or live in a nicer neighbourhood further north. A lot of people lived quite close to university. That's a good option I think if you want to attend a lot of the parties and get to know a lot of the exchange students. I lived about an hour's trip to the university (by bus and train) in a nicer neighbourhood called Coyoacan. It's a lot more cultural rather than close to the uni, other students also live there, just not as many as close to the uni. Really, I wouldn't recommend one over the other, both were good options. I would probably recommend contacting some people through the exchange Facebook page and organise something like a sharehouse before you go - it makes it less stressful while you're there and you can get some nice big apartments for cheap.

Budget

Mexico City is cheap but not as cheap as the rest of Mexico. Really, it can be as expensive as you make it. If you plan on going out a lot in nice neighbourhoods and taking ubers everywhere (uber is your friend when you don't want to put up with the metro) then it can get close to if not just as expensive as Australia (albeit for a more lavish lifestyle). I paid about $400 a month for rent in a nice neighbourhood. Food can, again, be both expensive or cheap, depending on where you eat. Really it's quite hard to pinpoint how much it costs to live in Mexico as it varies greatly, but I'll at least say that while on $110 a week from Youth Allowance I was saving money.

Professional Development & Employability

My Spanish has improved beyond sight - for anyone studying a language I highly recommend immersing yourself, it helps in unimaginable ways.

I believe exchange has helped me to develop a good sense of self confidence and ability to work through tough times. Without painting exchange as a difficult slog there are times that you will miss home and be frustrated by the difference in cultures. Going on exchange gave me that exposure and helped me to learn new ways to deal with difficult situations.

Highlights

The highlight of exchange was experiencing a different culture for a long time. Sorry for the platitude, but there's no better way to put. Other than, traveling around Mexico and surrounding countries was amazing - I loved Chiapas, el Barranco del Cobre, and Cuba the most.

Top Tips

Try and learn some of the language! Knowing Spanish made it a completely different experience than if I had known none - from meeting people at uni, in the streets or even the guy at the taqueria to haggling for better prices - it's always better in the native language. I would also recommend that you do as much as you can while you can. 6 months flies past and if you don't get everything you want done you may never...

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