Sunday, September 8, 2013

Dear "17 year old kid from Mexico" living in the US...

I received the following comment on a post right after I returned from Europe: 

"I'm a 17 year old kid from Mexico who has lived in the United states since I was 3. As I'm getting closer to graduating high school (I'll be a junior come September) i have actually been thinking about going back to Mexico to further my education In UNAM. I came across your blog not long ago by accident and I right away got hooked by it ( I have read all your posts about mexico within a week). what advice might you have about attending UNAM and living in a completely different country (I'm Mexican but have only been there twice after i left so Mexico for me in many ways is still new especially Mexico city). thank you"

So, "17 year old kid from Mexico" living in the US (and anyone else who might have a similar question....) : 

Sorry for taking so long to respond to your question. In part, I haven't made much time for blogging since I've been back in the DF, but mostly I haven't been entirely sure how to respond to your question. 

I can speak a bit from personal experience about visiting or living in a foreign country. I'm been in Mexico for 3 years, and I have also lived in Buenos Aires, Argentina for 5 months and visited Costa Rica and Zambia / Botswana for a month each. My best advice for anyone going to live in a new country would be to go into it with an open mind. Things will be different. Some things will be "better" and some will be "worse" than what you're used to. Before you judge or write things off, give yourself time to experience what's around you. The experience of being in a new place and out of your comfort zone will open your eyes and teach you things about yourself and make you rethink what you had accepted as "the norm." Even things you don't like, that frustrate you, can serve as a learning experience.

If the question is if it's worth it to visit and get to know Mexico better, then definitely. Mexico has so much to offer: it's so rich in culture and history, there are so many beautiful, diverse places to visit, and the food is awesome. 

However, coming to live here - specifically in the DF - and attending the UNAM is a much bigger commitment and I feel like it really depends on the individual and if it's the right fit or not for you.

A few things to consider:

  • The DF is a monster of a city. That means there is always something to see, something to do, museums, restaurants, sporting events, etc. However, that also means that traffic is a constant and it will take you a long time to get anywhere.
  • This might be obvious, but how is your Spanish (listening, reading, writing)? 
  • The UNAM is an internationally recognized university. It's a public university, which here in Mexico means that it's free (or maybe something like 2 pesos a semester or year for undergrad students?). 
  • The UNAM, much like the DF, is huge: it has something like 300,000 students (including the high schools associated with UNAM and the undergraduate and postgraduate students), which unfortunately means that there's a lot of bureaucracy and things aren't necessarily efficient (on the bright side, you learn a lot of patience....). 
  • Whereas in the US you can usually be accepted to a University and later decide your major, here you are accepted directly into a school / major. This means that from the beginning you take classes that have to do with your major and not general education classes like you probably would in the US (you could argue the point that it's better to focus strictly on your major or that it's better to be more well-rounded with some general education classes outside your major). This also means that changing majors basically means starting over and it's much harder to have two majors since they are completely separate studies here. Also, "minors" don't exist here.
  • A lot of majors require you to write a thesis to graduate, which is not usually the case in the US (though I think some majors now have different options for graduation - thesis, exam, based on grades, etc).
  • If you're interested in law or medicine, in Mexico these are undergraduate majors (different than in the US where you have to graduate from college before going to Law School or Med School). However I'm not sure if you could practice outside of Mexico? 
  • It depends a bit on what major you choose and what school ("facultad") you're in within the UNAM, but the UNAM is generally pretty liberal (and in some cases to the point of radical). You'll probably hear a lot more about Marx and problems with capitalism than you would at most universities in the US.

I hope that helps, or at least gives you something to think about. If you have more questions, feel free to comment or to leave an email address where I can reach you.

Whatever you choose, I would definitely recommend a visit to Mexico!

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