El Colegio de México International Summer Programme

19 March 2019

Tia from PALS was one of five UCL students who participated in the 2018 Colmex International Summer Program. She added breadth to her degree and picked up valuable language skills.

Tia Foster, Psychology and Language Science

The study abroad program at El Colegio de México consisted of four courses related to history, politics and economics and an additional course in Spanish language. I took mandatory courses on the 21st Century Metropolis and Latin America in the 21st Century and option classes in Criminal Violence in Latin America and the Caribbean Basin and An Overview of Mexican History. I also started Spanish as a complete beginner, having never taken a single class in Spanish in my life. One of the best advantages of studying in a country where another language is spoken is that you find yourself completely immersed in the language and culture. Although challenging to be placed in an environment where you understand absolutely nothing (ordering food was a nightmare to begin with), there’s no better way to encourage yourself to read and speak, and the chance to practice with local native speakers is invaluable. Somehow I can now hold conversations in Spanish, a big improvement from only being able to point at the food I want to order and say “esto por favor” (this please). My advice to anyone studying abroad in a country where a foreign language is spoken is to embrace all the opportunities to learn the language. For me, this meant translating random words I saw in the local area into English, texting my friends in Spanish and listening (and of course dancing) to reggaeton music!

One of the most amazing things about the program at El Colegio is that the students were so diverse, allowing me to learn about, not only Latin America, but many other cultures too. My closest friends now range from people living in Peru, the US and Japan to name just a few countries! My favourite moments from my time in Mexico are visiting cultural sites, including climbing the pyramids in Teotihuacan, seeing the museum of Frida Kahlo and having a party on a boat in Xochimilco with my course-mates. I was also lucky enough to enjoy travelling outside of Mexico City (in Oaxaca and Chiapas) for two weeks after the program, allowing me stay in a cabin in the mountains and relax at the beach. The teachers and administration staff at El Colegio offer an incredible amount of support, suggesting many local places for exploring outside of university times. One thing I did find challenging was balancing university work with my desire to explore Mexico City, however luckily the teachers at El Colegio try to be understanding. Additionally, Fridays were always free as our “cultural trip” day, enabling us to tour Mexico City with a historian to develop our knowledge. 

The modules I took at El Colegio are very different to my degree subject area, which is Psychology. However, I was keen to broaden my knowledge of Latin American history and current affairs since my previous study of history and politics has had a predominant Eurocentric focus. I really feel that I have achieved my goal and I feel extremely luckily to have been introduced to the topic by some of the most established professors, authors and researchers in Mexico and study with some of the best students around the world. The teachers at El Colegio really embrace practical learning, for example, to enhance our learning about the differences between pre-Hispanic and current food and drink customs in Mexico, our history teacher brought us different types of Mexican cuisine, such as traditional pastries, sweets and even tequila to try for ourselves! I would definitely recommend the international summer program at El Colegio de México to anyone interested in learning about this region and I would absolutely love to study in Mexico again!

students on a boat