A wonderful semester filled with academic and social experiences June 03, 2018

By (Brandeis University) - abroad from 01/07/2018 to 05/19/2018 with

IFSA: Merida - Universidad Autonoma de Yucatan

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
I improved my Spanish so much that I would now consider myself to be fluent. I think in Spanish without trying and I use it regularly to communicate with the friends I made. I learned a lot about the political and economic structure of México from conversations with my peers and host family. I also learned about differences that Mérida has from other parts of México and how it's history is quite distinct.

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? 0-2 weeks

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

I took 4 classes at the local university in the psychology department which I absolutely loved. The class sizes were smaller than my home university and all of the teachers were supportive. The learning style was a lot more applied, with projects and presentations instead of exams. I was the only English speaker in my classes which of course improved my Spanish too. I also took the IFSA Butler class, Community and Culture, as an obligatory course.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

The two program directors in Mérida are incredibly supportive and accessible, acting as my second host family! I know I will stay in touch with them for a long time and I could count on them when I needed something.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

My host family was incredibly generous, caring, and supportive. I felt integrated into my family and they always made an effort to include me in their activities. My room in the house was spacious and included my own bathroom and walk in closet.

* Food:

The food I ate in Mérida was the best I've ever had. My host mom always cooked delicious food and made accommodations for me if it included things I was not able to eat. We ate 3 meals together every day and I was always very satisfied after.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

I integrated myself at the local university because all my friends from school were from Mérida or another part of the Yucatán peninsula. I felt comfortable conversing with locals and with my friends.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

I never had any problems with health care so this question wouldn't be relevant.

* Safety:

Mérida is a very safe city and I always felt comfortable walking alone and even at night. Sometimes at night the streets are empty which can be a little scary.

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

I left a few weeks ago from my program but I already want to return. The program administration are so supportive and the location in Mérida was fun although it was really different from other parts of México.


* 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)

Everything was incredibly cheap and the value of the dollar went up while I was there. Besides, I ate 3 meals a day with my host family so my main costs were from travel.

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? $15
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? Using credit cards can lead to large international fees.


* 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

Most days I only spoke in Spanish, with the exception of when I saw my other peers from IFSA Butler. Speaking in Spanish was always encouraged and I was motivated to improve.

How would you rate your language skills at the beginning of the program? Advanced
How would you rate your language skills at the end of the program? Fluent
What was the highest level language course you had completed prior to departure? Spanish 111 (Latin American Literature and Culture)
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 friends with local students, talk to locals at restaurants or around the city, watch movies or TV with your host family, songs, etc.

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
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?
  • host family
  • accessibility of prices
  • location wonderful for traveling!
* What could be improved?
  • public transportation in Mérida
  • group excursions outside of México
  • psychology internship opportunities
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? I wish I knew about how crazy hot the weather would be. Pack a lot of light shirts and tank tops, and wear jeans because that's what the locals wear. Toiletries are expensive, especially makeup and feminine products, so try to bring them along with you!