B.International Studies, 3rd year
B.International Studies, 3rd year

Academic Experiences 

During my exchange I took three subjects:
1) Spanish IV language and communication
2) Sculpture
3) Community service
All three were in Spanish which was challenging but with persistence I pulled through and my Spanish improved tenfold. I would encourage future exchange students, who are considering taking their subjects in a foreign language, to go for it! Not just one, all of them. The improvement in your language skills will be worth it.
I really enjoyed my sculpture class as I don’t do art at university and it was fun expressing my creativity. The exchange student facilities were very good at UDLAP. You can email them or drop into the office with any question and they will help you out

Personal Experiences

From my exchange I gained lots of friends that I can now visit in Mexico and all over the world. I also got to travel Mexico and experience a culture very different from my own. Mexico is a vividly colourful country. The landscape ranges from arid desert to tropical coastline, with colonial towns dotted between. The culture is lively and welcoming. Mexicans love a party and they love to eat. The food was one of my favourite experiences. It is delicious and there is a great variety. Each region has its own cuisine. I lived in Peubla which is famous for Chilies En Nogada. The dish is a large green chilli stuffed with minced pork and dried fruits, then dipped in egg and fried. It is served covered in a walnut sauce and sprinkled with pomegranate seeds. As the culture demands, the food is accompanied by a party! Which is in September, when all the ingredients are in season.
My experiences taught me a lot about living in a country where they don’t speak your mother tongue. I would highly recommend this experience to other exchange students as it is very enlightening. You learn new ways of interpreting life, mostly through observation. Facial expressions and gestures take on a new level of meaning. You also learn new ways of life that can change your perspective. In Mexico I was forced to confront issues such as inequality and gender roles.

Accommodation

I lived off campus and my accommodation was excellent. I lived above a restaurant and the two managers were my housemates, one French and one Mexican. I also lived with two Canadians and another Mexican. We made a great little community and sometimes cooked together or did yoga together. My room was big and had a double bed, a desk, some shelves and a balcony, from which I had a spectacular view of Cholula. The house also had an art gallery that held exhibitions by local artists, a pond, an organic vegetable garden and many animals: 2 dogs, 3 cats, 4 ducks, 1 lizard and fish; to be exact. I would encourage other exchange students to live off campus as you can escape the university bubble and more fully submerge yourself in the local culture.

Budget 

When living in Cholula my expenses were as follows:
Rent: 1500 pesos per month, bills included
Food: 400 pesos a week
Transport: 1000 pesos for a bicycle and then free!
Entertainment: 15 pesos for a beer in a bar, 300 pesos for a bottle of tequila from a shop
Travel: 200 – 1000 pesos for a long distance bus ticket.
I recommend a budget of $5000 AUD for the 4 months of the exchange, not including flights. If you want to save money cook at home and buy your groceries from a market. Find a house with a washing machine in it. It’s not expensive to eat out or have someone wash your clothes but it adds up over the semester. Traveling is the most expensive thing but if you book your bus tickets well in advance you can get a good deal.

Academic Development and Employability 

The Spanish language is the most obvious skill that I have gained from my exchange which adds to my professional development. My language skills never would have improved so much if I hadn’t of gone on exchange. Other skills include being able to adapt to a foreign environment and having the confidence to get out of my comfort zone. Also, the subject Community Service directly relates to my degree of International Studies and has given me volunteering experience in a rural indigenous community. This was a great opportunity which allowed me to experience another side of Mexico.

Highlight 

Cholula, the town where I lived, was my highlight. It was my charming home away from home. Every house is painted in a different bright colour and there is a cute, little church to be discovered around every corner. The weather is always sunny and high above the town, volcano Popocatépetl can be seen puffing white smoke into the air. There are great restaurants and cafes where you can find good coffee! The easiest way to get around town is on a bicycle and I cycled everyday. Also, it’s safe to walk on the streets at night. All of this made me to feel very comfortable and Cholula was always a welcome place to return to after traveling elsewhere in Mexico.

Top Tips

Get involved in as much as you can! Many universities offer great workshops in sport or art. An exchange is an opportunity to try things new and different. Travel a lot, especially in your host country, and experience the culture as much as you can. This means dance, talk eat and drink with the locals and participate in local customs and traditions.

 

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