Katie, a Spanish and international studies major from the University of Iowa, spent a year studying abroad at Universidad La Salle in Mexico City. She speaks about the reality of studying abroad in Mexico versus the way that the news portrays the country. How did Mexico challenge the media’s perceptions? Katie explains it all …
I have just recently returned from a year abroad in Mexico City, Mexico. First off, Mexico City is absolutely nothing like what the news portrays or what a typical Mexican vacation is like. It is a city of millions that is extremely developed and much like any normal big city. Even though it has such an enormous population, there is a lower crime rate than in Washington, D.C. That being said, although it is no more dangerous than any normal big city; habits like not walking alone at night and not being flashy with money are just common sense precautions to take.
The streets of Polanco have expensive shops like you could find on the Champs-Elysées in Paris, while Condesa is filled with the trendiest bars and clubs and the pastor tacos can be found just about everywhere. There are malls in almost every colonia (what they call the different neighborhoods in Mexico City), multiple amusement parks, a highly sophisticated public transportation system, some of the world’s best museums, the largest soccer stadium in Latin America seating 100,000 and as an added bonus, pandas in their zoo (just over 20 zoos in the world have pandas).
Mexico cannot be defined by what is presented in the news because there’s so much more than just that. The cartels and drugs are problems of the north, leaving the rest of Mexico perfectly safe. Yes, drugs are a prevalent problem throughout the north, but the majority of Mexico is more than safe to travel through. Buses make weekend visits to Guanajuato, San Miguel de Allende, or even Toluca very easy and worth the trip. Never once while spending time in Central Mexico did I feel as though my safety was in jeopardy.
Mexican people are warm and welcoming. Also, there are so many gorgeous places to visit in Mexico! From mountains to hot springs, to caves, to deserts, to even snow, and of course beaches, Mexico has a constantly changing landscape that is one of the most beautiful places that I’ve ever been to. Nothing can quite top the sun coming up over the mountains in Monterrey, or being able to see the clear blue sky from my balcony and the mountains in the background.
As far as schooling goes, I felt La Salle had a very relaxed learning environment. At my home university, I would normally take four to five classes each semester and be very busy. In La Salle however, I had lots of free time which was something new to me during the school year.
The campus was really pretty and really had all the things I ever needed such as printing stations and computers. The teachers were generally extremely helpful to the exchange students, and the exchange group was fun because it included kids from all over the world and from different parts of Mexico.
I met some of my best friends there, and was blessed to have had them in my life. We were constantly together and every weekend you could find us all gathered in someone’s apartment just hanging out until 6 in the morning, enjoying each other’s company. They helped me celebrate Thanksgiving, which is my favorite holiday, and were constantly willing to help me with school, my language skills and adjusting to life in Mexico. They showed me the true Mexican culture and helped me to fall in love with the country.
Thanks for sharing, Katie! Ready to explore Mexico? Learn more about Universidad La Salle on the ISEP website and start your study abroad adventure.
An earlier version of this post was originally shared July 16, 2014.