What is the best way to choose the country in which you want to spend your semester abroad? For me, the question was never whether, but where I would like to go. After the presentation of the partner universities, the selection was restricted, but the decision was not made directly. It was obvious to choose a country where Spanish is spoken in order to improve this for study. This left only three partner universities, including U-ERRE in Monterrey, Mexico. I particularly liked the fact that there is a host family there that accepts students. But is Mexico suitable as a travel destination? The Internet research on the security of the city unfortunately yielded very different results. That's why I decided to make my own picture - the best decision I could make
Even before arriving in Monterrey it is not difficult to make contacts. Kathy from the International Office of U-ERRE is a German herself and therefore knows all (typically German) questions. Every international student was assigned a Mexican buddy by her. We were not only able to contact them in advance and clarify questions, but they also accompanied us throughout the semester as good friends who always tried hard to offer a second home. In addition, many excursions and celebrations were organized by them
I also found my host family through Kathy. It consisted of two older ladies - Mari and Hortencia. For 7,000 pesos per month (approx. €350), food, laundry and cleaning are included three times a day. The room is shared with one of the roommates, which may sound unusual at first, but can also lead to good friendships. The most important thing for me about the host family, however, was the great cordiality of the Mexicans and especially of these two. They are always anxious to make their stay as pleasant as possible and to give "their children" much of Mexico. Living with a host family does not entail any major restrictions. With your own front door key you get the same freedom as usual
Whether you have a large, small or no knowledge of Spanish, the host family is one of the best ways to learn Spanish. There are some courses in the U-ERRE in English. The fact that the number of these is relatively small, however, had turned out in our case only locally. But I experienced for myself that one can also survive the semester with only a few previous knowledge of Spanish. If you put a little extra work into learning the language and the required vocabulary, exams, projects and homework are feasible. Of all these there is much more in comparison, however, also the grading is different to the German system. During the three-month tetras, three exams are written per subject. In addition, there are the weekly homework assignments, which must be submitted online in due time and then evaluated. It should be mentioned here that one must have reached 70 percent in order to survive. Participation in a Spanish course is mandatory for all Internationals. There were three different courses depending on the language level
Outside the university, however, it is necessary to try it at least in Spanish, as very few people in Monterrey speak English. One can practice this particularly well with the many journeys which are offered within Mexico and should be absolutely noticed. Due to the size of the city there are good and inexpensive flight and bus connections. Despite many taxes and compulsory attendance during the semester, it is possible to travel on weekends. Sometimes it is difficult to research or book bus connections in advance, but in almost all cases they travel reliably from city to city and even punctually (!). It is also very worthwhile not only to drive to the big tourist resorts but also to visit the interior of the country. Often this is much more traditional and the inhabitants are happy about the visitors
Despite the probability of a culture shock, I was able to settle in Mexico very well. I quickly knew that I had chosen the right country. Especially because of the big difference to Germany I was able to take a lot of experiences and impressions in all areas with me and would immediately decide for Monterrey again!
Text and images: Luisa Vierheller