Guanajuato - Words can't describe my experience October 27, 2020

By (Soka University of America) - abroad from 01/13/2020 to 03/26/2020 with

CLA: Guanajuato - Liberal Arts & Culture Semester

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
I gained a new perspective on life.

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? 6 months+

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

The academic program for Guanajuato was perfectly suited for my needs. Students on this specific program were required to take mostly language and culture classes on the beautiful Language campus. This meant that while we had classes with local students and professors, there was a large number of other international students, which I found beneficial when learning more about Spanish and Mexican dialects. I didn't feel alone in my abilities, and there grew an amazing sense of community amongst the students and professors. Every professor was fair, friendly and overall just lovely people to be around. I could tell they had a passion for teaching and this really helped me develop my language skills and cultural understanding of Mexico.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

I struggle to put into words how dedicated Fabiola and Samantha were in being program administrators. Not only did they help us with everything, but they were also so concerned about our wellbeing and showing us the wonders of Guanajuato that I really have no faults about them whatsoever. I'm proud to call them my friends now, and we often talk to each other online to catch up. It's not hard to fall in love with Mexico, but they made it that much easier.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

My host family was fantastic. It was a large family of 7, so for me coming from a 2 person household I was a little worried about how I would fit in with such a large family at first, but they were all so splendid. Of course, you have to respect their rules and interact with them often (that's what they're there for!), but I found that if you jump right in and are enthusiastic about being with them, it can be a fantastic cultural exchange. Despite this, they also gave me a lot of autonomy and allowed me to explore the area on my own terms. For me, this was a great setup. Even when I fell ill halfway through my study abroad, they treated me like one of their own. They looked after me like my mum would and I feel really blessed to have been paired up with them.

* Food:

Wow, what can I say about the food? Obviously at first, like with any new culture, the food takes a little time to get used to. But my time in Guanajuato re-ignited my passion for food. I could sit here and list every one of my favorite new foods, but that would be boring. Go and try out the street vendors or many of the brilliant food places (or home cooking) and I guarantee you won't be disappointed.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

As a queer person, being accepted was my main concern. As soon as I got there though, I found Guanajuato to be an overwhelmingly accepting place. Everyone there was so welcoming and lovely. There are usually quite a large number of international students studying in Guanajuato, so the local population are used to interacting with foreginers and are, on the whole, extremely warm and welcoming. I didn't struggle making new friends in Guanajuato, and I still keep in contact with a few of them now! In terms of the history and culture of the city, there is an abundance of things to do all year round. From museums to live music to annual festivals, there's never a dull moment. As well as this, Fabiola and Samantha took us on weekly excursions to help us learn about the local area which I loved every second of.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

Like I mentioned before, I was only ill once in Guanajuato. However, Fabiola and my family were excellent in looking after me and I can't fault them. It helped a lot that my host father was a doctor, and therefore it wasn't necessary for me to book a doctor's appointment as he looked after me at home. Overall, I never once felt neglected.

* Safety:

I never once felt unsafe in Guanajuato. Obviously, you have to use your common sense and avoid too much solo nighttime exploration and be aware of your surroundings and belongings, but saying this there is no sense of immediate threat in Guanajuato.

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

My program was cut short due to COVID, so I plan on returning after I graduate.

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)

It was quite easy, but do try and bring as much money as you can for unexpected expenses/any personal trips you might want to take.

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? $60
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? Guanajuato is a tourist city. Because of this, there are so many places to eat, drink and explore. My advice would be to generally avoid the more expensive establishments and be strict with yourself regarding going out with friends because although it is generally cheaper in Mexico compared to the United States, your money can deplete quite quickly.

Language

* Did your program have a foreign language component? Yes
How much did the program encourage you to use the language?

0 = No encouragement, 5 = frequent encouragement to use the language

5. Most classes I took required spanish speaking in the class.

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? 2 years university classes.
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? Immerse yourself! Don't sit at home trying to memorise every verb and noun. Go out there, make mistakes and try to talk with local friends as much as you can.

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?

A Look Back

* What did you like most about the program?
  • Fabiola & Samantha (Program administrators)
  • Local/International Friends
  • The city!
* What could be improved?
  • Not much.
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? Bring warmer clothes too - although it's Mexico it can get quite chilly at night sometimes.