By studying abroad in a different culture, I’ve not only gained a different perspective regarding my academic studies, but I’ve also made a lot of new friends, visited some amazing places, and celebrated national holidays such as ‘Día de la Independencia’ (Mexico’s independence day).
I wanted to travel to Mexico for roughly a year before I arrived here after I met with NIC’s Office of Global Engagement to discuss exchange options, as becoming more fluent in Spanish is a goal of mine, and I had heard so much about the culture and country from immigrant friends of mine. To me, a student exchange option sounded like an amazing option, because what better way is there to experience another culture and learn its language than to participate in its educational system neck-and-neck with other students my own age. I initially did not think that an exchange to Mexico would be possible for me because I spoke only very basic Spanish. But, Nadine and the amazing team at NIC's Office of Global Engagement managed to find me a host university in Colima, Mexico which offers courses taught in English.
When I first arrived here in Colima, Mexico I experienced a lot of cultural shock because almost everything, from what type of foods are eaten, to the educational system, to the language and even to how people greet each other, is done differently. Upon my first day in Mexico, my host family actually had to put two beds together to fit me, because the standard bed size in Mexico is the size of what Canadian children would generally sleep in. Although adapting to a new way of life has been difficult, the people here have been tremendously helpful and caring. Many of my fellow students took it upon themselves to show me around the campus, introduce me to their friends, take me to buy a cell phone and show me where to do my shopping. In one case, a professor even sent me a message to make sure I got home safely as there was a rainstorm in progress when class ended.
Mexico is a very large and diverse country with a lot to offer visitors. In Colima, Mexico where I am, I can enjoy a full course authentic meal for under $200 pesos ($13.50 in Canadian dollars), visit the beautiful beaches of Manzanillo, participate in various sports at the University of Colima and enjoy the Center of Colima, which is the city's cultural hub.
Living in Latin America has definitely changed the stereotypical Canadian mindset I had regarding the dangers of countries such as Mexico. Coming from Canada, I was expecting to see and hear of a lot more violence, but it was nothing like the media plays it up to be. Although there are some areas of Mexico it is safer not to be in, like with visiting any country, Canada included, if you use common sense and stay with people you trust, you will most likely never be in any danger.
I am extremely glad I chose to participate in this exchange because it took me out of my comfort zone and forced me to develop new skills that will benefit me for the rest of my life. This exchange has been an amazing experience I will never forget. If you are a student at North Island College, I would highly recommend you book an appointment with NIC’s Office of Global Engagement to discuss exchange options. They have an amazing team that will help you make the right decision and will support you every step of the way.