They say that a month into exchange the excitement of the new things around you wears off a little bit and you begin to miss home. But I can say at this point, I am still delighted to be here, with new opportunities and experiences knocking at the door constantly! Of course there are moments when you question yourself but the key is not to let those thoughts have significance! Exchange will be one of the most stimulating experiences in your life!
I am living in Cholula, Puebla and attending the Universidad de las Ámericas (UDLAP). It’s a really beautiful town – the perfect combination of living right next to a big city while also having the tranquility of the mountains and a slightly slower pace. The university is beautiful, although it is a bit of a shock in regards to the resources they have versus the poverty that some surrounding communities experience. But so far I’ve had a great experience there – mexican students (and mexicans in general) are super helpful and interested in getting to know you. The style of teaching is definitely different to that of Australia, and the expectations of students differs as well.
The international student community is big here, and it’s really easy to make friends. I live in a big house with mostly international students which is fun as we are all in the same boat – here to take everything in and have fun. Some students live on campus which seems cosy (they do your washing and cleaning for you) however I’m really glad I got here a week early to look for accommodation outside of uni. If you are like me and really value your independence and freedom, I would suggest doing the same.
Speaking Spanish here is important, but it’s not the be all or end all. It is just important to make an effort and the rest will flow. You can take Spanish classes at UDLAP, I am taking two language classes, as well as sociolinguistics, critical theory and community service. Community service is a great course to take as it involves working with a local NGO. It gives you a chance to interact with the ‘real’ Mexico while learning and practicing lots of different types of skills.
For anyone considering coming to México I urge you to do it. The atmosphere is so invigorating and the food is a reason in itself to come. I was worried coming to Mexico and being a vegetarian, and at times people have stared at me with disbelief when I ask is there’s anything “sin carne”, but it has been remarkably easy in Cholula – there are a handful of vegetarian restaurants and even a crazily cheap vegetarian taco truck just a block away from my house. Mexico is super affordable for Australians which has taken a huge financial stress away that I otherwise would have had if I went to more expensive places like Europe or the USA. It’s also important to note that although heaps of people commented on the dangers that I mights face in Mexico, I have actually felt very safe and at home. Of course there are precautions that everyone should take, but it’s sad to think that people might avoid coming here because of what they see on the news. You don’t want to miss out on all that Mexico has to offer (which is a lot).
Lottie Erin Cooney Clark
Bachelor of Global Studies