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As seen in the Transitions Abroad Webzine July 2008 Issue
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A Semester at a Mexican University

Spanish Language Study and True Cultural Immersion in Mexico City

Study Spanish at a language institute and you’ll learn to fill in the blanks of a worksheet with the correct verb forms. Study at a Mexican University and you’ll learn to incorporate those verbs eloquently into a speech. If you want to move away from textbook Spanish, consider studying at a university. From writing essays to giving presentations, you’ll gain insight related to the language and culture. Here are a few more reasons to study at a university in Mexico.

Your Spanish Level Will Soar

I studied at the Universidad de las Américas in Mexico City. After three semesters, I felt more fluent in Spanish than I had during my previous years studying the language. Here’s why: I took college-level classes along with Mexican students. I read history books with them, wrote essays, took tests, and contributed to group discussions.

The university scene pushed me to use Spanish in different settings. When a teacher assigned a presentation on current events, I knew it would be tough. I worked with a compañera to prepare our assignment, which covered situations in South Korea. We put together Power Point slides, downloaded maps, and noted phrases to use during our speech. The result? I got to practice hours of Spanish as we worked on the assignment. I had to think on my feet (in Spanish) when we gave the presentation. Feedback from the class added another element to the learning process. Weekly assignments like this one allowed my Spanish capabilities to skyrocket to a new level.

If you’re a beginner, starting at a language institute may be your best option. When you’ve studied for some time, and feel comfortable having a conversation in Spanish, you’re ready to consider the university option. The college setting will improve your comprehension levels and boost your confidence.

Interact with the Mexican Locals

Relationships are highly valued in Mexico, and the university scene is no exception. Teachers often begin classes by chatting with the students. Discussions during a lecture are common. Be prepared to pay attention and participate. Many professors will be interested in hearing what the foreigner (that’s you!) has to say about a topic.

Outside the classroom, you’ll get a chance to make new friends. By being surrounded by native speakers, you’ll pick up common phrases and modismos. You’ll also learn how conversations flow—Mexicans are generally much more subtle and indirect than gringos. Listen closely and you’ll be able to understand when deep issues are addressed in a light manner.  

How Mexico Works

By taking a semester of classes at a university in Mexico, you’ll get a better idea of how the system works. Bureaucracy abounds in Mexico, and schools require students to turn in large amounts of paperwork. You’ll get a feel for what college-bound Mexicans go through.

Although laden with documents, most universities run pretty smoothly. If you know the right people, you can usually pass through the requirements easily. Befriend your advisor and classmates; they’ll help you if you run into any problems.

If you’re attending a university in the United States, your school may have a connection to a university in Mexico. If not, your advisor can help you set up a study abroad experience. If you are going solo, as I did, you can search online to find a university in Mexico that works for you.

For More Information

The Universidad Autonoma de Yucatán, located in Merida:

The Universidad de las Américas, located in Mexico City:

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