If you choose to study in Mexico, you will not find a lack of interesting subjects to pursue. Tucked between the vibrant cultures of South America and the dry deserts of the Southwestern United States, Mexico is in many ways a port of movement and exchange: of culture, cuisine, people, money, the list goes on. Spending a year or semester studying here is a phenomenal way to observe US foreign policy. Its proximity to the U.S. makes it an incredibly important player in the U.S. economy; and this is only one dimension of the multi-faceted, complicated relationship between these two countries – one that will certainly be important to watch throughout the 21st century.
Studying abroad may sound great, but traveling all the way to the other side of the world? Skip the long haul flight / stale cabin-air / terrible airline food and instead head south to Mexico! While it's true that Mexico is a fun and oft-visited break vacation destination, our 3-times-the-size-of-Texas neighbor offers WAY more than just sandy beaches with pristine blue waters.
Though Mexico City may be the obvious choice for someone embarking on a study abroad experience, others may find the smaller cities of Cuernavaca, Oaxaca, Tijuana, or Monterray to be a better fit. Research the different locations to determine which would make the best fit for your ideal study abroad experience.
Regardless of where you call "home" for the semester, be sure to check out all of Mexico's exciting states. The best way to travel around Mexico is via bus—perfect for a student budget!
Mexico City: Ciudad de Mexico is the world's third largest city. Set in a plateau over 2000m above sea level, Mexico City is the best place to see some of the country's most historic sights. With more museums than any other city in the world (some 3000+), students find that this urban environment is a dynamic and interesting combination of Spanish culture and native Mexican cultures.
Mexico City is located in the southern part of the country, and its distance from the northern border has helped preserve some of the more traditional cultures. Spend your weekends snapping photos of the nearby Aztec ruins or the Basilica of Our Lady Guadalupe.
Guadalajara: Guadalajara's local university is known to have one of the best (and most popular!) Spanish language and Latin American culture programs in all of Mexico. Though a political and economic domestic powerhouse on its own two feet (nicknamed the "Silicon Valley" of Mexico), Guadalajara is better known as being the birthplace of mariachi and tequila!
Located just northwest of Mexico City, a semester in Guadalajara will open many opportunities for travel to Puerto Vallarto, Acapulco, and other nearby coastal gems.
How to Choose a Program
Mexico is a history buff's dream study abroad destination—consider Mexico's ancient civilizations such as the Mayans and Aztecs alone! With more than 50 indigenous groups comprising nearly a quarter of the population, the many layers of Mexico's identity may surprise you more than you think. In fact, did you know that Mexico is home to 25 UNESCO World Heritage sites?! That's enough to keep even the most keen study abroader busy for a semester!
1) Language: With a population of over 110 million people, and home to the world’s largest population of Spanish speakers, Mexico is an excellent location to further develop your Spanish language skills. For direct enrollment into a Mexican university, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM) and Tecnológico de Monterrey (ITESM) should be your #1 choices. Both consistently rank in the top 500 of the QS World University Rankings.
2) Housing: Before embarking on your study abroad adventure, consider all of our options for housing. Many programs will allow you to live independently, in a dormitory, or with a homestay family.
For language acquisition, a homestay will provide you with ample opportunities to regularly utilizing your language skills. While there might be a steep learning curve, by the end of your semester in Mexico you may find that you're cracking jokes and dreaming in Spanish!
Many study abroad companies believe so strongly in the benefits of homestays (including CIS Abroad, BCA Abroad, and World Endeavours) that they only provide this type of accommodation for their students to live in!
3) Immersion and cultural activities: Program fees may or may not include added cultural activities or small excursions. Some students prefer programs who organize these activities for them, trusting the knowledge of the organization to take them to all of the best sights. For other students, the thrill of pulling out the guide book and creating their own adventure is more exciting.
These extra activities can come in a variety of packages. ProWorld includes multiple excursions at the beginning of the program during the adjustment period, and then gives students free time to "choose their own adventure" as they are more settled in. Past trips have included hikes through Zapotec villages, visits to artisan villages, or trips to pre-historic archaeological sights. Sure beats added hours in a classroom!
Language and Customs
To all of our burrito-loving tummies' delight, eating is a very important element of Mexico's culture—and even if beans aren't your thing, you can still find an ample variety of foods. Do the words enchiladas, salsa, guacamola, fajitas, and tacos come to mind?! Excuse me while I order some take out...
Around one corner students can see traditional Mexican dress, folk art, and dance, while around the next corner see remnants of the Spanish colonization. Witness this ever-changing aggregation as Mexico continues to absorb its volatile past and move forward into the 21st century.
Mexico is a colorful and fiesta-filled nation filled with warmth and comfort. Expose yourself to Latin American culture and let the Spanish-infused cultures enrich your learning experiences. Besides, Dora the Explorer and Speedy Gonzales can only teach us so much!
Even though the US dollar works in our favor against the Mexican peso, those travel costs can surely add up quickly. If you are looking for a way to lessen the financial burden of your study abroad experience, high tail it over to these websites and try your luck on some scholarship money.
- Scholarships available from the Center for Global Education specifically for historically underrepresented groups in study abroad - applicable for their program in Mexico!
- CIS Abroad not only has four different scholarships for its program participants, but if you apply early, you get an extra discount!
- API offers a variety of scholarships for those participating in their programs - including a few great options (even a medically-themed one) in Mexico!
- More Study Abroad Grants and Scholarships