My New-found Love for Guanajuato and CLA: Beautiful, Affordable, Unforgettable! July 25, 2017

By (Millersville University of Pennsylvania) - abroad from 07/09/2017 to 06/10/2017 with

CLA: Guanajuato - Liberal Arts & Culture Semester

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
My experience abroad was extremely worthwhile. At first by choice and then by coincidence I made lots of local and international Spanish-speaking friends. These friends not only are now extremely important people in my life, but taught me SO MUCH about their respective cultures and immensely aided my improvement in speaking Spanish. I now feel much more comfortable speaking colloquially with native Spanish speakers and formally in the classroom. I also feel like I got a good deal considering I paid much less than many of my peers from the USA. I learned so much about the similarities and differences between Mexican and United States culture. Some cultural differences where harder to get used to than others, and some topics more sensitive to talk about than others, but I think learning to be sensitive to how people are different from you is an important lesson. I learned how to not only respect people's differences but appreciate them. I later began to learn that once the language barrier is broken down a bit, that anyone can be a friend, and that people in general have so much in common even if at first they seem so different. I learned how to explore on my own in a foreign country, to make friends quickly, and got better at salsa and cumbia dancing. I can attribute so many amazing memories (which I will never forget) to this study abroad experience, and wouldn't trade it for anything.

Review Photos

CLA: 20 weeks: Semester in Guanajuato, Mexico Photo CLA: 20 weeks: Semester in Guanajuato, Mexico Photo CLA: 20 weeks: Semester in Guanajuato, Mexico Photo CLA: 20 weeks: Semester in Guanajuato, Mexico Photo CLA: 20 weeks: Semester in Guanajuato, Mexico Photo

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? 1 month - 6 months

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

The classes you can take at the University of Guanajuato vary so much! The difficulty, amount of homework, organization of the class, how much you learn, etc. all depends on what "school" you are studying (like languages, business, law, etc) I took mostly classes in the language school. They were not very had and I wish I would have taken more classes in other areas of the university.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

I loved staying with a host family and I think it is especially helpful for those who do not already have cultural experience.

* Food:

I loved the food in Mexico! my host mother cooked very well and there were tons of restaurants of all different kinds in Guanajuato.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

I made tons of Mexican and international friends in school, through the CLA program, and on my own. This helped me dive right in to the Mexican culture. I loved that I did not have too many English-speaking friends because it really helped me experience Mexico in a more profound way and speak Spanish much more fluently.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

I had to go to the doctor twice during my stay, and my program director Fabiola and my host mom took me, stayed with me, and helped me through the whole process. The program was always concerned with my safety and health.

* Safety:

Overall the city of Guanajuato is very safe. You need to be careful sometimes walking through ally-ways alone at night. In general, at night it was always a good idea to walk in groups of three. During the day you can roam pretty much anywhere on your own with no issues whatsoever. The people in Guanajuato are typically so nice and helpful if you get lost or need directions. I personally never had any safety issues during my stay.

If you could do it all over again would you choose the same program? Yes

I felt that Guanjuato was the perfect balance between a city (even though it is not that big) with tons of things to do, festivals, night life, etc, and a smaller feeling place where you could run into other students you know on the street or know the name of the woman you always buy juice from at the market. The city was so walkable, the cost of living was so cheap, the food was delicious and varied, my program director was a blast and so supportive throughout, before, AND after my time with her. I loved that the city was not full of American tourist (like some places in Mexico) but the locals wouldn't stare or treat exchange students/tourist poorly because Guanajuato is a relatively touristy city and so the locals are more or less accustomed to foreigners. Other languages can be heard on the streets if you listen close enough, I liked that because it gave Guanjuato an international feel without taking away from my focus and success on learning Spanish.

Finances

* Money: How easily were you able to live on a student's budget?

(1 = not very easy/$200+ on food & personal expenses/week, 2.5 = $100/week, 5 = very easily/minimal cost)

After CLA's Program fee is paid (which is very reasonable compared to many other study abroad program costs: see program page) it is easy not to spend ANY money!!! Students get half off public transportation which is usually less than 25cents (USD) to begin with. You get three meals a day from your host family (included in program fee) so extra money can be used to eat out only if you want too. I didn't spend any money on buying school books because the teachers were very good about making copies of course material. Night life in Guanjuato is very cheap (if you are coming from the USA or Europe) There are always promotions at bars/retaurants that make having fun with friends very cheap! Most museums in Guanajuato are very cheap or free. There is a big famous theatre called Teatro Juarez that has free and great shows every Friday! There is a gym with all sorts of equipment and fitness classes that is free for students, which is so great! A trip to Mexico City and other excursions are also already included in the program cost, so by the time you get there these trips feel like they are free!! So easy to spend very little money with this program!

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? I spent less than about $100 each week on extra fun stuff, eating out, going out, extra vacations. (My spending varied week to week depending on what I did but I would say $85USD was my average)
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? Take advantage of EVERYTHING the University of Guanajuato has to offer! So many museums, bars, theaters, transportation, etc are free for students or offer student discounts, so always have your UG student ID with you!!!! UG also offers discounted excursions to great places like Tolantongo, San Luis de la Paz, etc. UG also offers free fitness classes and equipment, and field/courts that you can rent with your friends for less than 10$ (if you get more than 10 people that is less than $1 per person!)

Language

* Did your program have a foreign language component? Yes
How would you rate your language skills at the beginning of the program? Intermediate
How would you rate your language skills at the end of the program? Advanced
What was the highest level language course you had completed prior to departure? SPAN 351 (first higher level grammar course. 352 is our highest grammar course before literature courses, etc, begin.
How many hours per day did you use the language? 10+
Do you have any tips/advice on the best ways to practice the language for future study abroad participants? Make Spanish speaking friends at school (even if you don't hang out all the time you can still do homework together), go out with you host siblings, go shopping with your host mom, don't call family members, boy/girlfriends, or friends from home all the time! Don't feel insecure about your skills, practice only makes you better, even if its not all correct at first!!!

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Host Family
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Host Family
* Who did you take classes with?

Select all that apply

  • Local Students
  • Americans
  • International Students
About how many local friends did you make that you will likely keep in touch with? 10+

A Look Back

* What did you like most about the program?
  • Program Director (Fabiola) is an amazing peroson! (Professional, friendly, helpful)
  • The location is smack dab in the center of Mexico, and a beautiful city with tons of history.
  • The affordability of studying in Mexico, and the relatively low cost of the CLA Program.
* What could be improved?
  • The process of picking classes and what those classes entail could be made easier/clearer.
  • The in-house CLA language support could be better developed
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? I wish I had known how to let go of some of my insecure/American-behaviors at the beginning of my study abroad experience. In general, the students in my school were so happy, open, and helpful. At first I didn't want to initiate conversations with my classmates because I thought it would make me look desperate for friends, I wanted to look cool, or because I was insecure about my command of the Spanish language. I realized that those insecurities are not as much part of the culture in Mexico. So many of my classmates were so eager to get to know the new students in their classes (even though they all knew each other). They were so interested in learning about me and always were actually excited to answer any questions I had or help me with my homework or with my Spanish. I also sometimes didn't want to ask my program director for help even if I needed it. But I eventually learned that she was willing (and did) help me with everything from personal issues, to texting me directions to a new place, giving me advice on how to handle my classwork, and even talking with my teachers if I needed it. I know now that right from the beginning of my study abroad experience I would have been better off just asking for help, initiating conversations (even if I though I would sound silly or make a fool of myself) and getting out there and being social with people I didn't know at all.