By Rosa Dennis (Universidad de las Americas – Puebla, Mexico)
Hellooooo, I am sorry its taken me so long to write another update about my experiences of studying abroad in Mexico, but I was very busy towards the end of the semester with final essays and then straight away I left for the Christmas holiday to travel around Mexico and explore more of this wonderful country. I can safely say that it has been an amazing experience. This semester has been so full of adventures I don’t really know where to start, but as always the academic side needs to come first!
So, when November came around I was in a panic with four 10 page essays to write, no clue about what to do them on, and the stress of having to write most of them in Spanish. Its hard enough reading and understanding in Spanish, let alone writing 3,000 words! Due to a stroke of luck, unlike everyone else I knew, I had no final exams, just essays and presentations. This style of assessments does suit me better as I prefer assessments where I have time and don’t need to cram all my knowledge into my brain and then try to regurgitate it in 2 hours! However, unlike Manchester, where there are essay questions and specifications about what essays must include, here I was very much left to my own devices. I could write about any topic in the sixteen weeks of lectures, the only specification was it had to be 10 pages long.
This was very scary, however after many hours in the library reading and researching, I decided on my topics. From Spiritual Art in a Huichol community of northern Mexico, to how development is affecting rural communities in Bangladesh, and the changes in Catholicism in young people in Mexico. I found all topics very interesting, however they were not related and I found it difficult having to switch from one to the other. However, this diversity is the beauty of Anthropology as one can study anything and everything in any part of culture, and it seems that this even more relevant in the Anthropology that I am studying in Mexico. I can only speak from my own experiences, however this academic freedom does seem only present in the Social Sciences and Humanities. Many of my friends who study Business and Economics had lots of exams and presentations, so this style is definitely not for everyone.
However, after I finished my many essays and spent many evenings in the library, I was very unsure of the grades I would receive. Everyone is graded out of ten, and to pass you need a 7.5. As an international student there is less pressure for me to get these high marks as my year abroad does not count towards my final degree at Manchester. However, as I am a student who does try, to my surprise I managed to get between 9 and 10 in all of my modules, finishing the semester with an average of 9.6, a mark any student, national or international should be very happy with.
Yet I can safely say the level is much easier than Manchester. I am not sure if this is because it is a private university and therefore as the students already pay a lot of money to attend that the high qualifications are almost considered a right, or that the level is just much lower than I expected, but this difference really made me appreciate Manchester’s high academic expectations. When I tell my Mexican friends that at home a 60 is good and above 75 is almost unheard of, they seem to laugh and think I am a terrible student. Nevertheless, the ways of qualifying and how we are taught to think independently and criticise what we know to be true is something which isn’t echoed in the Mexican education system. This makes me sad, as many of the students don’t have the academic desire to want more and to find out more for themselves, they are just happy with what they get given. I feel this is not the same in all universities, but seems to be very prevalent at UDLAP, which is considered to be one of the best universities in Mexico.
As I had no exams, I was able to fully enjoy the months holiday we got in-between the first and second semester to really travel in Mexico. In the past month I have spent more than eighty hours on a bus, and God knows how many kilometers I have traveled, but it has been totally amazing. Some of the highlights are: exploring ruins and waterfalls in a jungle town called Palenque, spending Christmas on the beach and being able to spend time with all my friends from around the world who I have gotten to know during these past four months. It has been a blast, and now I still have two weeks holiday to go. I am meeting my dad tomorrow, who is coming to visit me to explore some of Mexico together before I start the second semester, which I am sure is going to be full of so many more adventures and stories to tell.
Here to an exciting 2015… and I am sorry for the lack of photos but here is a taste of my adventuring over the past few week!