Freddie Olsen, Universidad de las Américas Puebla (UDLAP), Mexico
What a first few weeks it has been!
Upon arriving in the suburb of Cholula the top priority was accommodation. Whilst Universidad de las Américas Puebla (UDLAP) does provide campus accommodation, I personally wasn’t sold. Having spent a year living in a cave in the Owen’s Park tower the desire for halls of residence just wasn’t quite there anymore. Likewise the prospects of sharing a room with someone I had never met before and living on campus didn’t seem quite so appealing. However what shocked me most about arriving in Cholula is how open it is for International students. I initially doubted the availability of student accommodation in a colonial town which remains relatively Mexican aside from the universities. However a room was found nearby which worked out well, with a plethora of other international students with nationalities ranging from Swedish to Czech! The best part is that the house is organised and shared by a large Mexican family, which forces one to speak a lot of Spanish, as well as obtaining local knowledge and information which goes a lot further than the hyped up Lonely Planet guidebooks.
Settling into a new University has been a lot more demanding than expected. Right from the moment you arrive you are bombarded with things that need to be done, and your to-do list seems to expand at an incomprehensible rate. Maybe I was just naïve expecting to just settle into University without considering the effort with regards to organisation and administration. Just the day after arrival a large welcome day is held and as is customary of welcome events a mandatory identification sticker is handed to you so that everyone knows your name, nationality and subject area, promptly killing off first day small talk. However what becomes apparent straight away is the arms race to get onto the courses that you want. In reflection I would encourage any students doing the study abroad programme to be on the ball with module selections as early as possible as I cannot emphasise how competitive it gets to not just get the modules that you want, but even just modules which are relevant to your area of study.
However this was all made pleasant by what was going on. From an early stage UDLAP made a clear effort to try and make the international students feel welcome, as UDLAP student representatives quickly obtained student emails and started organising social events. An entire day in the first week was spent with other international students doing activities, helping me to meet other people and make new friends alongside the countless events that are organised to provide you with nights out. This was also aided by the fact that the 2017/2018 academic year is the biggest year in UDLAP records with regards to numbers of international students. What also helps is the friendliness and openness of the Mexican people that I have met so far who will more readily go significantly further to help you out and make your stay more enjoyable. The stress of the administration and new surroundings is easily outweighed by the experiences I had and the people that I met in the first few weeks and I hope that anyone experiencing difficulty in settling into a new University will keep their head down and push through the intense introductory period because it sets the foundation for better things.