UQ Program: Bachelor of Arts (Spanish, International Relations)

It’s difficult to talk about a study abroad exchange without using clichés, because they are the easiest way to describe the awe-inspiring personal adventure that awaits you!  I went to México to improve my Spanish and discovered a beautiful, welcoming and harmless country alive with culture, history and, of course, friendly Mexicans.  It doesn’t take long to see that la vida mexicana has a lot to be respected for, and that Mexico really does have everything. You will have second thoughts about ever coming back home.

UDLAP is a private university which prides itself on being international student friendly.  I took courses taught in Spanish (RI326 Organización Internacional [POLS2211], DE386 Derechos Humanos [POLS2501], ID440 Español IV Gramática [SPAN2310], SO180 Problemas Sociales de México [SPAN2xxx]), and would definitely recommend it because these courses are taken by regular Mexican students (with the exception of the Spanish Grammar class) and therefore increases your contact with Mexican students and the Spanish language.  There is a great opportunity offered by the university to participate in internships and community service placements in your area of study (MX407 Internship in Mexico) which enabled me to do work experience in the legal department of a local government-run community centre for a couple of afternoons each week.  I would recommend this course because it gave me an insight into a different aspect of everyday Mexican society that wasn’t possible from attending a class.

The uni is located on the main street, Camino Real, of Cholula - a lively student town that felt safe at any time of day or night.  All necessities are within walking distance of UDLAP, or alternatively the city of Puebla is a no-fuss half hour bus ride away.  The orientation week provided by UDLAP was comprehensive and included tours if Cholula and Puebla.  Amigos Internacionales is a group of existing UDLAP students that accompany exchange students during the orientation week, and organised a number of other functions during the semester.  They are a support network for any exchange student who needs some help or advice during the semester.  But you will also find a support network in the friendships made with other exchange students from other countries who become such an integral and invaluable part of your experience abroad.

I lived in one of the on-campus student dormitories (Bernal) and it was one the most rewarding parts of my exchange.  The colleges are an instant source of friends, and a great support network because there is always someone to hang out with.  The residents were inclusive and my college truly become like a big family.  I shared a bedroom with a Mexican roomie who taught me so much about Mexico and deepened my understanding of the Mexican culture.  She made my time in Mexico unique and became more like a sister.  Her family made me feel at home and invited myself and a couple of other exchange friends to spend the Carnaval in Veracruz with them.  It was such a fun and unforgettable experience and I will always be grateful for the friendship and support of my roomie. 

Some tips:
(1)  Make an effort to speak Spanish.
(2) Take up UDLAP’s generous accommodation scholarship and live in the university colegios. You’ll constantly be speaking Spanish and will make a lot of Mexican friends immediately.  Although I had a wonderful time with my roomie, if you are uncomfortable with a shared bedroom you can elect to pay a little extra and stay in an individual bedroom. 
(3) Arrive in Mexico before the orientation week begins in order to familiarise yourself not only with communicating in Spanish, but also to become accustomed to the cultural change.  I travelled without any problems throughout southern Mexico for five weeks prior to my exchange, and while it certainly gave me a head start linguistically, it also gave me the opportunity to appreciate the big differences that exist between different parts of Mexico.  It’s a remarkable country and will touch you and change you in ways you’d least expect.
(4) Enrol in MX407 Internship in Mexico or Community Service.  It adds depth and a new perspective to your understanding of how things work in Mexico, and as it doesn’t have a lot of coursework I had no problem in taking it as an extra course. 

Any questions, please feel free to contact me through UQ Abroad.

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