What Anna has to say on her Mexican Study Abroad Experience
I studied at Tecnológico de Monterrey in Guadalajara, Mexico in semester 2, 2011. I wanted to experience studying abroad primarily to consolidate my Spanish language skills by immersing myself in a Spanish-speaking environment.
Ruminating about my time in Mexico conjures up so many contradictory images – white sandy beaches, jungle hikes, agave-based liquors, one-street pueblos, the omnipresent taquería, Teotihuacan’s towering pyramids, and Diego Rivera’s brightly painted murals.
The travel opportunities that come with any exchange experience are incredible. I was able to treat Guadalajara not only as a home, but also as a base to travel around the super diverse states of Mexico.
At the heart of my Mexican experience were the people I met. I did not expect to meet life-long friends from all around the world, many of whom I am still in close contact with. The Mexican people I came across, through my university studies and travels, ranged from city hipsters to indigenous villagers, all of whom form the melting pot of diverse cultural and historical roots that I now know as Mexico.
I was also fortunate enough to be awarded the Walter Mangold Trust Fund Scholarship for language exchanges. This came as a great surprise and assisted with minimising the financial stress of studying abroad. I would encourage all students considering going on university exchange to a Spanish-speaking country to apply for this scholarship and any other financial assistance available.
And what Alice wants to add on her exchange in Madrid
Ask me what the scariest thing I’ve ever done was, and I won’t reply swimming with sharks, skydiving or playing to a crowd of thousands. Maybe if I’d done any of those things it would be, but the fact is one of the scariest things I’ve done was make a simple phone call. Or ten. Phone calls that weren’t, in fact, all that simple, as they involved speaking to complete strangers about renting an apartment… in Spanish. Getting caught out with an answering machine and only being able to come up with: “I’m Alice, an Australian student looking for an apartment with a friend, so… if you can call… this is good.”
Fast-forward to the end of my 9 months on exchange in Madrid and not only is the spoken language in my apartment Spanish, but I’m analysing 16th century documents for Spanish history. I even have a few Spanish friends, along with the amazing exchange students I met from all over the world. You may think you haven’t improved your language skills all that much, but for me all I had to do was remember that dreaded phone call to feel very proud of how far I’d come.
Studying at Universidad Autónoma was a fantastic way to improve my Spanish, with activities such as salsa and tennis classes to practise in a relaxed environment. But it was also an opportunity to expand my horizons. It was a chance to take units outside of the Monash curriculum, taking a closer look at Spanish culture, or whatever it is you might be interested in. Seeing how a different system functions also gives you a greater understanding of university and education in general and how you learn, and a huge sense of achievement for going back to the beginning and trying something new. Having a Monash degree is fantastic, but combining that with an experience at an overseas university is a great way to show your ability to step outside your comfort zone and work in different environments.
But I would be lying if I named this as my favourite part of my Monash Abroad exchange. The best part is the places you go, the people you meet, and the amazing time you have discovering a foreign city. It’s the gypsy caves in the hillsides of Granada, it’s skiing in the Pyrenees, it’s the Northern Lights, it’s dancing to “Sex on Fire” in Dutch with tuba at Carnival, it’s the hundreds of glasses of sangria and tinto de verano, it’s custard tarts in Lisbon, it’s the tiles in Park Guëll in Barcelona, it’s dancing with guys in kilts in Edinburgh, and all the other unforgettable moments on the way. And it’s the incredible satisfaction you feel at stepping out into the unknown, studying in a different style and system, living in a foreign country, and making it through to the other side.
Chloe’s comment on her experience in Chile
“Chi-chi-chi, le-le-le, viva Chile!” shout the crowd, the sea of red, blue and white seemingly covering the entire stadium. “Cachai?” asks my Chilean housemate (a very Chilean way to say “do you understand?”) “Sí po, obvio po!” I respond (a very Chilean way to say “yes of course”). We are at the soccer (sorry, I mean fútbol) stadium in Santiago, the capital of Chile, where I have chosen to spend 6 months of my degree as part of the Monash study exchange program. As Chile defeats Peru 4-2, my cultural experience is growing – I now know a Chilean soccer chant and am beginning to learn the rules of soccer (well, sort of).
Studying on exchange in Chile was easily the highlight of my education at Monash University. Studying subjects entirely in Spanish was challenging but extremely rewarding. Studying on exchange though, is not only a chance to study in another language, but to immerse oneself in another culture and lifestyle. Living in a share house with Chileans was a fantastic way to not only improve my Spanish but to make life-long Chilean (and international) friends. My Chilean friends were only too happy to educate me on Chilean history, culture, food, Chilean slang, music, politics, festivals/celebrations and more. On top of all of this, I had the opportunity to travel to some beautiful locations within Chile. My only regret is that I couldn’t stay longer!
Would I recommend doing study exchange in Chile? Sí po, obvio po!