The Most Underrated Study Abroad Program Past Review

By (Bowdoin College) - abroad from 01/05/2019 to 05/21/2019 with

IFSA: Merida - Universidad Autonoma de Yucatan

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
As someone who wants to have an international career, I learned that I definitely would love to work in Latin America in the future due its to warm and welcoming culture. It was worthwhile because I felt comfortable to make mistakes and grow, which might have not been possible in other locations. It was just enough to get me out of my comfort zone but not enough to shut me down completely.

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.

We had over a week to finalize our courses once we got on-site, which was very helpful because the classes that I ended up taking, I LOVED! My classmates were great and my professors were incredibly smart and kind. That being said, the work intensity is very low and lecture styles often mimic high-school style classes. Try to take upper-level seminar courses if possible for more opportunities for Spanish discussion. All classes have a lot of oral presentations. Either way, there were NOT any giant lecture classes, so I definitely felt like I got to know my professors and my classmates!

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

Fantastic. There really isn't much else to say other than everyone on the IFSA team is incredibly helpful, patient, and kind.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

Amazing and experienced host family! Very comfortable housing size and excellent relationship. Beware if you are afraid of the heat because springs and summers are incredibly warm in Mérida (honestly, it's hot all year around) and there is often no A.C. in the buildings, only fans!

* Food:

I cannot complain at all about Yucatecan food. It's exquisite.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

Everyone, including strangers, was incredibly kind and welcoming. I was able to make local friends, speak a lot of Spanish, and explore the city via bus! Mexico definitely felt like home to me.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

I don't necessarily think treatment is the same as in the U.S., but I was able to continue physical therapy treatments in Mexico and they definitely helped me a lot.

* Safety:

I definitely felt safe walking around by myself, even as a woman at night. That being said, I am from a very big city, so definitely always be cautious of petty theft (e.g.non-violent stealing of phones). Nothing of mine was stolen in Mexico!

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

At first I thought I would regret not going to Europe, but the friends that I made and the incredible experiences that I had and the sights I got to see made everything worthwhile. I grew a lot academically, spiritually, mentally, and emotionally, and I wouldn't trade it for the world.


* 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)

Very affordable because food is provided to you by your host family, laundry machines are at the house, and the bus isn't pricey.

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? $10 to $30 depending on whether or not I went out to eat/hang out with friends during the weekend. If I traveled, which I did a couple of times, this number could increase by quite a bit.
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? If you really want to save money, you can limit traveling to other cities.


* 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

We were definitely encouraged a lot, but they were not very strict about enforcing it. I spoke Spanish literally at all times unless I was hanging around my other American classmates.

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? Advanced
What was the highest level language course you had completed prior to departure? 3000 level Bowdoin Spanish seminar course
How many hours per day did you use the language?
Do you have any tips/advice on the best ways to practice the language for future study abroad participants? Find local friends or other international students (if you don't know their native tongue). Talk to your classmates and host families!

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Host Family
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • N/A
* 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?
  • Course material
  • Location
  • IFSA Team (including host family)
* What could be improved?
  • Spanish speaking rules could be more enforced
  • Transportation (I would have liked more guidance to learn how to navigate the bus system)
  • In May, personal A.C.s or fans could be provided. Luckily I like the heat, but a lot of my classmates were struggling.
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? I wish I would have been more proactive about going out and seeing new places by myself in the first month! I feel like that time was wasted because I was trying to settle in and didn't feel comfortable going out by myself. I was a little bit intimidated to go places without my friends out of fear of getting lost, but with proper preparation (maps, cellphone, etc), you can conquer your own fear and know that it is okay to be independent! You never know what's going to happen, so try to say yes to more opportunities! I learned how to live more in the moment, to not be afraid to open up and ask for what I need, and how to stop fearing what other people think of me and just try to make relationships - people in Mérida are incredibly nice and are always willing to help!

Reasons For Studying Abroad

To help future students find programs attended by like-minded individuals, please choose the profile that most closely represents you.
The Academic or Linguist
You went abroad with specific academic goals in mind; the program credentials and rigor of your coursework abroad were very important to you. You had a great time abroad, but never lost sight of your studies and (if applicable) were diligent with your foreign language study. Good for you!