Alison Rae
Alison Rae
12 November 2009

A stint in Mexico during the swine flu outbreak hasn’t dampened Alison Rae’s desire to explore Central America – the UQ Journalism/Arts student heads back there in less than two weeks.

It was in early May, while completing a semester on exchange at Tecnologico de Monterrey, Mexico that the H1N1 influenza (swine flu) epidemic began to unfold.

While Ms Rae managed to complete all of her assessment before leaving, the health scare cut short her travel plans.

“Originally, when we heard the first news reports, we just thought it was a bad flu,” she said.

“Then we were watching the news during the night and saw the Governor of the State announce that all universities would be closed.

“At first, we thought ‘yay, no uni, but then realised we had exams the next week.’”

While being away from home in the midst of a public health scare is not ideal, the support shown to Ms Rae by her host university meant her exchange experience was not marred.

“Tec has very much a family atmosphere,” she said.

“The main thing we were worried about was border closure – we were thinking ‘if this gets any worse, are we going to be able to leave the country?’

“Tec was really good in that they organised emergency exit visas – international students could go and see the uni lawyers, sign a form and be able to leave within a day or so.

“They provided regular updates and were also flexible with assessment – some exams were completed online, and there was also an option to complete assessment once you left the country.”

UQ recently presented Tecnologico de Monterrey with a Vice Chancellor’s Award for Internationalisation, in recognition of the support it provided to exchange students during the swine flu scare.

Director of UQ’s Office of Undergraduate Education Professor Sushila Chang nominated Tecnologico de Monterrey for the award, saying its commitment to the welfare of UQ students, including assistance with flexible assessment and personalised support services, was extraordinary.

Swine flu aside, Ms Rae’s exchange experience was a positive one, with Tecnologico de Monterrey proving the ideal institution to complete three political science subjects as part of her arts degree.

“Tec is part of the Universitas 21 group, it’s a private university and has very high standards – the passing rate is about 70 percent,” she said.

“They offer classes in English, which was appealing for me because I didn’t understand any Spanish before going to Mexico.

“I would definitely recommend Mexico as a place to go on exchange – the culture and way of life is very different to Australia but a great experience.”

With swine flu interrupting her first Mexican adventure, Ms Rae will resume her travels once the end-of-semester exams are complete.

“It happened a week before the assessment period, my brother was just about to arrive and we had plans to travel for about three weeks,” she said.

“I had to leave Mexico a few weeks early, so there were a few places I didn’t get to see and I’m also keen to explore Central America.”

Ms Rae hopes to complete her Journalism/Arts dual degree at the end of 2010.

Media: Penny Robinson at UQ Communications (07 3365 9723,