Before going abroad, I had hoped to learn Spanish. By the end of my stay I was able to speak more Spanish than I had ever thought was possible. I am almost fluent in Spanish and I could get around very well. I lived in a home-stay while I was in Mexico and I developed a very close bond with the family I lived with. I learned so much about the culture, especially why they do things such as bullfighting. I also made two really close friends from Finland, which I never expected to do in Mexico.
I stayed with a family and lived in their house. The house itself was four blocks from the beach and a little way from the university itself, but it was great to live with a family. I was able to improve my Spanish immensely because I could practice speaking with the family every single day. It was still very easy to make plans with other students to hang out and go out to eat. It gave me a good balance of spending time with the family, different Mexican students and other international students. I would recommend living in a home-stay if you are interested in speaking Spanish and learning more about the culture. You also had the option to switch to on-campus housing if it did not work out with your family.
I took business courses that were taught in English. They were focused on culture and Mexican business practices, which were very interesting. As part of the classes we were able to tour different business and were even able to go to the airport and see how air traffic control works. Learning these differences helped me appreciate different ways of life.
The classes were smaller in size as there were no more than 20 people in each class. One of my classes only had 6 students in it! It was great to have small classes because we had a close-knit group and the classes were very personal. One of the professors even brought in cake for a student’s birthday! The workload was different from a typical UNCG workload, but I still feel like I learned a lot. The structure of the courses allowed me to do other things, like travel and experience the culture of the city while I was there.
I took lots of weekend trips with the family I stayed with, as well as different weekend trips with the school itself. I was also able to stay for a whole month after I finished classes and travel around Mexico. It was great to see the differences within the Mexican culture – from the large cities which were very modern with great public transportation, shopping malls, gardens and a younger population, to the small cities with wood cottages, and different natives. It was also great to see the contrast in the geography in Mexico – from the beaches to the cities to the rolling mountains.
I was even able to visit the place where the Mexican independence movement started. Everyone celebrated with flags, hats, and fireworks. I also went horseback riding and mountain biking. I took an excursion through the canyon, toured a tequila factory, a beer factory, a coffee factory and a newspaper factory.
Mexico is an easy country to get around, but I recommend having an intermediate to advanced understanding of Spanish when visiting the smaller cities because there are fewer tourists and fewer people speak English. In the larger cities and tourist spots, you don’t need to know as much Spanish, because you can generally find someone who speaks English. It is also better to travel in small groups, so you have people with you, but not too many people that it is hard to make decisions.
The food is excellent and there is a large variety of different foods. The family I stayed with cooked a lot, so I was able to try authentic Mexican foods, as well as different international cuisine. Since we lived so close to the water, we were able to get fresh seafood, which was a real treat. Most of the restaurants had good, inexpensive food and were very welcoming.