With a rich history focused on a colonial past and success as a silver mining town, Guanajuato is a colorful city filled with steep, winding cobblestone streets and enchanting architecture, located in the center of Mexico.
At the center of the culture and activity is the University of Guanajuato, one of the most prestigious in Mexico, which welcomes over 30,000 students each year, including a wealth of international students from all over the world. University facilities are located all over the city, spreading intellectual and cultural energy throughout.
Studying abroad in Guanajuato will allow you to improve your Spanish, experience the vibrant culture of a small Mexican city, and live and study alongside locals.
It's easy to be overwhelmed by the amount of culture in this small and quiet university town. Academics, arts, and music flourish in Guanajuato, with no shortage of quaint cafes, picturesque plazas, and elaborate churches.
Your life in Guanajuato will be centered around your studies at the University or study abroad program, along with opportunities to get involved in extracurriculars, cultural activities, and volunteer opportunities to your liking. Your home life will also be a prominent part of your experience in Guanajuato, as most programs require students live with a local host family.
Culture & Immersion
One of the best things about studying abroad in Guanajuato is the opportunities you'll have to immerse yourself in the culture. This UNESCO World Heritage site has plenty to offer culturally, including well-known galleries, colonial-style alleyways and architecture, cafes, and museums. Guanajuato is known for its Cervantino Festival for the Arts in the fall and its extended Easter traditions in spring, as well as elaborate celebrations for Independence Day and Day of the Dead.
Taking courses at the University of Guanajuato alongside Spanish students and living with a host family will provide even more opportunities to get to know the culture directly from locals. Many study abroad programs offer their own field trips and cultural activities, maybe even overnight stays in other parts of Mexico.
Culture Shock & Support
There may naturally be some cultural shock whenever you study in a different country, and adjusting to the language may present a challenge. This is especially truesince some programs in Guanajuato will require that you only speak Spanish while you are there, but study abroad programs will provide plenty of support to help you get acclimated to your life overseas. Most programs will provide advising before you even depart for Mexico to answer questions and address concerns.
Once in Mexico, you will likely have an orientation, which will provide an introduction to Mexican culture, your academic program, and the city. There will be full-time program or university staff in Guanajuato to support you throughout your time overseas, and your host family will also serve as a helpful support system that will help you practice the language and feel comfortable in the city.
During your semester in Guanajuato, you will truly live and breath the local culture. With the University at the core of the city's cultural activities, you'll be surrounded by other students and right in the center of the action. The city's auto tunnels, built to divert traffic away from the city center, as well as the narrowness of it's streets and alleyways, make walking the way of life in Guanajuato.
Outside of the classroom, you will have the opportunity to participate in cultural activities, such as sports, theater, and music, through the University or your third party provider. You will also have opportunities to volunteer in an area of your interest at places such as women's rights organizations, animal shelters, orphanages, and community-building NGOs. Your host family life will be another huge part of your lifestyle in Guanajuato, as you will spend time eating meals and conversing with your host family on a daily basis.
Insider Tips on Studying Abroad in Guanajuato
A key to studying abroad in Guanajuato will be practicing your Spanish, as many programs require that students only speak Spanish through the duration of the semester. Practicing with your host family and local students at the university will help you feel more comfortable with the language. A city rich in culture and history, Guanajuato is well known for its Mummy Museum, Guanajuato Symphony Orchestra, Teatro Principal, the Casa Museo de Diego Rivera, and most of all the Cervantino Festival, Latin America's largest international art festival, which takes place each fall.
When planning your semester overseas in Guanajuato, it will be crucial to make sure that however you choose to enroll in courses, your credits will be accepted by your home university, as all schools have different study abroad requirements and standards for what transfer credits they will accept. Another important determination will be whether you want to take classes solely at the University of Guanajuato or if you would also like to take courses through a third-party.
It is possible to study in Guanajuato through third-party exchange, direct enrollment, or direct exchange, but third-party enrollment is the most common, with well-renowned programs such as and IPSA. If you enroll in study abroad through a third-party program such CIEE, you will likely have the opportunity to take courses that are only open to program members as well as courses at the University of Guanajuato alongside Mexican and other International students.
Direct exchange is only offered in conjunction with certain international universities, so you will have to check with your university to see if they have an exchange agreement with the University of Guanajuato. Lastly, you can opt to enroll directly into the University of Guanajuato as an international student, allowing you to take any undergraduate courses the university offers, but you should be sure that your home university accepts transfer credits from your studies in Guanajuato.
While studying in Guanajuato, it is very common for international students to live in a homestay. Living with a host family will allow you to immerse yourself in the local culture and Spanish language. Most homestays offer each student their own private room and provide daily meals to the host student. Host families in Guanajuato really take the time to get to know their host students, and you will leave feeling like you have a second family in Mexico.
Guanajuato is a compact city with many small, winding streets and hidden alleyways. As such, the best way to explore the city and get around is by foot. Not large in size and pedestrian friendly, it's easy to get many places you will need to go by walking. However, there is also a very accessible and affordable city bus system, which can take you within the city limits and even to some popular spots beyond. There are also safe and inexpensive buses that run between Guanajuato and Mexico City, which is convenient for planning a day trip or overnight in Mexico City.
While spending a semester abroad can be pricey, if you choose to study in Guanajuato your expenses will mainly be towards your study abroad program or school tuition and airfare. However, there are plenty of options of scholarships you can apply for to help cover tuitions fees. As living in Guanajuato is very affordable for students coming from the US, Canada, and most of Europe, you shouldn't have to worry much about expenses such as a transportation and books. Additionally, most program fees will likely include your accommodation (homestay) and three meals a day at your homestay, so you won't have to worry about these being separate costs.
Cost of Living
The cost of living in Guanajuato is quite affordable as compared to most US and European cities, in part due to the current strength of the dollar compared to the Mexican peso. Your study abroad program fee will likely include your accommodation (homestay) and three meals a day at your homestay. If you choose to eat out at all, it's typical to get dinner at a quality restaurant for $10 and you can get a monthly bus pass for less than $12. Your largest expense will likely be airfare, which won't be included in your program cost.
Students who will be studying in Mexico for less than 180 days may enter with a tourist card. These short-term students are not required to apply for a visa. Students who will be visiting for a period longer than 180 days can apply for a student visa. Your study abroad program or the Mexican consulate can help you with this process. Make sure to allow sufficient time for your student visa application to be processed.
Can You Work While Studying in Guanajuato?
It's definitely possible to find temporary work while you are living and studying in Guanajuato. You may be able to find opportunities such as tutoring English to young students, babysitting or assisting in a daycare, or working at a local shop, restaurant, or cafe. Note that you will likely be speaking exclusively Spanish in most of these jobs, with the exception of teaching English.
There are many options of scholarships you can apply to for your study abroad semester in Guanajuato, including need-based grants and merit scholarships. The Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship is a common one, which can help cover the cost of your program as well as airfare. Your home university can help provide you with more information about scholarship options that are accepted by the study abroad program you are interested in.