It has now been a month of being in Mexico, and 4 full weeks are behind me, but I definitely have found it harder than I realised to balance everything I want to do together with all the things I need to do. From various people who have studied at UDLAP before, the workload was supposed to be lighter and accommodating to lots of time not spent at uni or thinking about uni-related commitments. However, the first week at UDLAP was filled with bureaucracy and form-filling, which made me more grateful than ever for Manchester’s efficient administration. Into the first week of classes, it became more clear that, for my modules at least, it was more like A-levels again, and quantity over quality.
While at Manchester we are generally used to a 2-hour lecture, followed by a 1-hour tutorial during the week, 1-2 essays across the semester, and a final exam – this is certainly not the style at UDLAP. I have classes that are just an hour long, but twice a week, and following every class, tareas (homework) are set for the following lesson (which is either 48 hours away – or 5 days). This, coupled together with exams every month, and often an essay later in the semester and/or an exam at the end of the semester, makes it all the more important to stay on top of my work week on week.
However, in all honesty, I did not come to Mexico to sit in the library – for one, its not raining all the time in Cholula – so it has been a bit of a learning curve to balance everything. Together with going to salsa and bachata classes, and pushing myself to get to the gym, my three days of classes are pretty hectic. It has also been a learning curve for me to let go a little bit on academic work, and to remember that this is a pass/fail year.
That said, I have also travelled quite a lot in my first month here: the highlights including the perennially hectic Mexico City, the majestic pyramids of Teotihuacán, the Sierra Norte town of Cuetzalan, with beautiful waterfalls nestled among dense verdant vegetation, the colonial architecture and brightly coloured streets of Puebla, and of course Cholula itself, which in the mes de patria is adorned with decorations, ferias and more amazing food and drink than you could ever imagine!
A month in, Mexico is just as wonderful as I could hope, and continues to surprise me more and more each day. More to come next month on some interesting festivals and rituals here!