Rich in history, diversity, and excitement, México should not be overlooked when choosing a study abroad location! As Latin America’s business capital and America’s neighbor to the south, México is a wonderful country to get to know through study abroad.

 Students visiting corn fields in Ixtlilco el Grande, Mexico

Augsburg CGEE participants visit sugarcane and corn fields in Ixtlilco el Grande and learn about farming in México, and emigration to the USA. (Tim Bishop is the fourth from the left)

Trust us, México isn’t all the news chocks it up to be; here are five unexpected surprises you’ll find during study abroad in México:

5. Delicious (and Fresh!) Food

Ok, so maybe you do expect this, but hear me out for a minute. North of México’s border, we’re guilty of eating “Tex-Mex” thinking it’s the same as authentic Mexican food.  After only a few days of dining in México, you’ll never think about Mexican food the same way again!

Take jicama, for example. Somewhere between an apple and a potato in texture, this root plant is sweet and crunchy. All over México you can enjoy this awesome veggie in salads, soups, other dishes, and even on its own as a crisp snack! If you’re from a cold, northern climate like me (shout out to my fellow Minnesotans!), eating super-fresh produce like avocado and pineapple is a rare treat; but, you can get it straight from the source when you study abroad in México, and it’s delicious!

Other amazing dishes you’ll have to try for yourself: chilaquiles, tacos al pastor, elote, and fresh cheeses.

 Street view of Amatlán de Quetzalcóatl, Mexico

Street view of Amatlán de Quetzalcóatl, a small village with deep roots in the indigenous community.

4. Meeting Mexicans AND New Global Friends

Did you know that México is the United States’ third-largest trading partner and considered the business capital of Latin America? As a main player on the world stage, people come to México from all over the globe to study the Spanish language, Mexican culture, and business.

Augsburg College study abroad alum Tim Bishop explained his own experience studying in México as:

I was surprised to find myself in class, sitting beside a student from Japan! We studied Spanish in a local language school in Cuernavaca. Although we didn’t have class together, I saw other students at the school from Norway, Canada, and the U.S. as well.”

Located in the central state of Morelos, Cuernavaca is considered one of the Spanish language-learning hubs of México. Also known as the “City of Eternal Spring”, Cuernavaca’s vibrant city life and historic architecture have attracted local and international visitors for many years. “It was exciting to interact with people from all over the world, with México and Spanish language as our common ground,” says Tim. Packed with cafés, restaurants, theatres, museums, and more, Cuernavaca is the perfect place to be out and about with Mexican and international friends!

Salto de San Anton waterfall in Mexico

Hidden in the busy city of Cuernavaca, the Salto de San Anton waterfalls is a beautiful natural site.

3. Strong Political Culture Among Young Adults

Active participation in local politics is very popular with young people in México, particularly among college students. Study abroad alum Tim explains, “The students I met in México were super politically active, an exceptional force for change in their country. They are very intellectual people that absolutely knew what they were talking about; it was literally a part of everyday life to discuss politics at a deeper level.”

Expert Tip: Research some basics on the politics of your host country before going, so when your new Mexican friends ask you, “What do you think of Enrique Peña Nieto?”, you may actually want to know who that is (Answer: México’s current president).

2. More Than What You See in U.S. Media

The U.S. media paints México with two broad strokes: glittering beachfront resorts and unstable third-world conditions. The reality is so much more than either of these two extremes, and it’s important to see the whole picture for yourself. Past study abroad alumni have found that having a host family can really help you see all the different realities of life in México.

México City skyline, Mexico

A glimpse of urban life in México City

The media never shows the friendliness of the people, the variety of indigenous cultures, or the beauty of the diverse geography. The media doesn’t show you how fantastic it is to read about cutting-edge sustainable farming practices, and then to talk to those farmers directly, the way we did in our classes.”

Looking past the U.S. media’s portrayal of México and exploring the lived realities of many Mexican people will broaden your understanding of México on a new level. When it comes to safety concerns, be sure to thoroughly research your study abroad program in México to ensure that it is clear and open about its safety and security procedures. More importantly, select a study abroad program in México that provides excellent support to its participants in any situation. When you travel, make sure you always stick to common-sense safety measures (the buddy system, fully charged cell phone, etc.), and you will have a great time!

1. A Mosaic of Cultures

México is far from a single homogeneous culture, and it’s easy to see why when you consider its size. México spans between two oceans, is the 14th largest country in the world, and roughly 120 million people call México home. Today, indigenous populations, Afro-Mexican cultures, immigrant families from around the world, U.S. expats, and more, are all living in México, embracing its history and creating a future unique unto itself.

 Ravine in Cuernavaca, Mexico

A view of the ravine in Cuernavaca

Exploring a new country can be thrilling, challenging, and surprising, but finding the ‘unexpected’ treasures can be part of what makes study abroad one of the most memorable experiences of your college career.

So dive in! Explore the unexpected through study abroad in México; it just might be the study abroad destination you have been looking for!

This article was contributed by The Center for Global Education & Experience of Augsburg College, which has provided experiential learning experiences abroad for over 10,000 students since its founding in 1982.

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