I am Nicola, 22 years old and have been living in Guadalajara, Mexico’s second largest city for just over a year. I came here on an ICS exchange and decided to stay on for another semester doing a global exchange, an incredible opportunity, rarely heard of outside the UTS exchange community so it seems! Staying was an easy decision; I have become completely enraptured by both the city and the whole country, the people I have met and the experiences I have shared with them, have been so positive, that for me, one year was definitely not enough time – and I am still not ready to go home.
I arrived pretty confident in the fact that I was going to love Mexico – everything I had heard from previous students and Mexicans themselves back home was always positive: the food, the landscapes, the places to go, the mariachi, the tequila etc I was itching to go for the whole two year wait between enrolment in the country major and actually leaving for exchange.
I feel content now that my expectations were reached, and Guadalajara was the perfect city to have them realised; it lies in the state of Jalisco decidedly “the most Mexican state of all Mexico” according to its inhabitants – the home of tequila, mariachi singers, la charreada (Mexican rodeo) and much more. It is a dry, hot city in the summer, the winter very temperate with sun everyday and barely a drop of rain, I don;t think it should even be called winter…!
Despite culturally it boasts many accomplishments as a city, GDL is not very touristy; lying a bit to far from Mexico City and 3 hours from the closest beach probably contributes to this, but in doing so, makes it one of the perfect places for an exchange student. It is probably the most popular city in Mexico for foreign students; there are around 200 in the current school I am in, Tec de Monterrey, and probably about the same in the public university, Universidad de Guadalajara, where I studied last year. This makes for a lively exchange scene, which at times is a bit of restraining in terms of improving one’s Spanish, but on the whole it has been great to have met people from all around the world, including many other Australians who often provide a bit of support, like a temporary family because they understand where you come from and you can see them when you get back home which is a great way to get over that post exchange depression!
It was always the number one priority to learn, practice and achieve some sort of Spanish fluency whilst here. I learnt a lot in the first year but didn’t feel satisfied with my level by the end of it, which was another reason I anticipated when applying for the extension in June. This has been helped mainly by Mexican and other Spanish speaking friends, more so than any grammar class. Mexican Spanish is rich in slang, I have come to love its pronunciations, differences in grammar and subsequent accent – when travelling through Central America last year people asked me if I was Mexican because of my use of very Mexican colloquialisms and accent (which were quite proud moments for me); and it was always nice to bump into a travelling Mexican on the way, who was more often than not surprised in finding out I lived in Mexico, mainly due to the often incorrect stereotypes that have spread across the world that deem it completely unsafe.
I have learnt lots of things during some of classes I have taken at school; a teacher I have at the moment for Mexican thought and culture has become quite an inspiration for me, in terms of his knowledge of his country, his ability to convey the good and the bad, his interest in the situation of Mexico’s minorities (indigenous, women and children) has allowed me to continually grow my interest in potentially working in this kind of field, in Mexico, in the hopefully not too distant future.
I leave here (unfortunately) in June, but I hold every intention to come back at least to travel to the parts I have yet not seen, ideally find some sort of job relating to my degree and just live for an indefinite time here. I feel like exchange has been just my first taste of Mexico, hoping for
many more experiences to come. I feel very lucky to have been able to do this thanks to UTS, it has been the most worthwhile thing in my academic life so far, and I will always remember it, whatever happens in the future.
*the first photo is of the largest lake in Mexico, Chapala, pretty close by… The second some some friends and I at the beach Sayulita, the third a recent shot from Easter break on the island in the Mexican Carribean called “Holbox”, a must see!, and finally the fourth, my beloved Guadalajara!!