Mexico

Mexico

"A country full of wonders is waiting for you. Situated in the southern part of North America and bordering with Central America, Mexico is surrounded by the Pacific Ocean on the west and the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea on the east. Mexico is home to one of the richest areas in the world in biodiversity as it houses 12% of the world’s biodiversity. Its official language is Spanish along 63 other indigenous languages. Ola!"

Did you know...

That Mexico is home to over 30 UNESCO World Heritage Sites?

That it is believed that Mexico first had humans about 23 000 years ago?

That the national symbol of Mexico is the golden eagle?

Host families

Mexican host families come from very different social backgrounds. However, they have more or less the same access to comfort and cultural enlightenment. In a majority of Mexican families, you will have siblings, as most Mexican families have two to four children. Usually Mexican children remain with their parents until they get married. Mexican families aim to have strong principles and a great concern for bringing up their children in a semi-traditional way. And, since most children do not work until they graduate, parents provide them with everything they need.


Thus, teenagers are accustomed to respecting their parents and following their rules, get good grades at school, show good manners and, in general, be polite and respectful. It’s very important to be polite to parents and other people of authority, like teachers, and, in general, people who are older than you.

school

School is an important part of your exchange experience. You will attend school either in the morning or in the afternoon, depending on the grade or school you are in and their availability to have an exchange student. School in Mexico can be very theoretical, because they usually don’t offer practical subjects or extra-curricular activities. Although it will be hard for you to keep track with your classes in the beginning, it’s recommended to try hard and keep trying. Attendance is very important and as soon as you learn the language you will be able to learn more about the country and make friends. 


The school year starts in August and ends at the end of May or in the beginning of June. There is a 2-week winter vacation period in December. Spring vacation is in April. Some schools require students to wear a uniform. This uniform could be a T-shirt with the school name that you should wear with jeans or an entire outfit.

"The nice thing about Poza Rica, the city where I live, is that it is quite small. Everybody knows each other. Every Friday we go to the disco and we meet a lot of familiar people. It is not hard at all to blend in with the locals in Mexico. Mexican people are very open, friendly and known for their hospitality. They will always try to help you."

Festivities

Mexico is well known for the many religious and secular festivities it celebrates throughout the year. One of the most fascinating celebrations is Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead). While the setting of a cemetery may seem mournful, this holiday is actually a joyful celebration!  In fact, you'll find that vendors throughout the country sell candy and sweets in the form of human skeletons and skulls to mark the holiday. During your exchange, you will witness firsthand many of Mexico's unique traditions!

Sports

Fútbol (soccer) is by far the most popular sport in Mexico. The top professional teams draw as many as 100,000 spectators to their matches. Next to that, Mexico also has a professional baseball league. Other sports include golf, tennis, swimming, bicycling, track and field, and jai alai (known in Spain as Basque Pelota). Bullfighting and the jaripeo (rodeo), are also popular, with about thirty-five arenas in Mexico.

Crafts

The variety of Mexican handicrafts is almost endless. Silver objects include bracelets, rings, necklaces, and earrings. Objects are also carved out of onyx, jade, and other types of stone. There are many regional styles of pottery. Other crafts include hand-blown glass, tile making, leather work, and lacquering. Weaving and embroidery are age-old crafts that are still practiced.

Geography

Mexico is a land of diversity, with high mountains and deep canyons, sweeping deserts in the north, and dense rain forests.

Mexico lies between the Pacific Ocean on the west and south, and the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea to the east. It’s bordered on the north by California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas, and on the east by the Central American countries of Guatemala and Belize. Mountains cover much of Mexico. Between the Sierra Madre Oriental mountain range in the east and the Sierra Madre Occidental in the west small mountain ranges are located on the Central Plateau. These regions are rich with valuable metals like silver and copper. The stretch of land, called the Yucatán Peninsula, juts into the Gulf of Mexico from Mexico's southeastern tip. It was once the home of the Maya civilization, an ancient culture whose amazing buildings can still be seen today.


Discover Mexico:

History

Around 1200 B.C., Mexico’s first complex society, called the Olmec people, arose in the southeastern part of Mexico. Later, they were followed by the Toltec, Maya and the Aztec people. Big cities and large pyramids were built by these ancient societies and remarkable art work was created, too. To define when to hold ceremonies and plant crops, these people even studied stars and planets. Later on, in the early 1500s, Spanish people came to live in Mexico, bringing diseases with them, such as the smallpox, which made the Aztec people sick. Besides that, they also destroyed their capital, called Tenochtilán, and ruled the country until 1821.

Climate

You might think that Mexico’s climate is uniformly hot. But the altitude of the central highlands creates a year-round temperate climate with extremes of either hot or cold. However, the coastal plains are hot and humid. The broad northern desert regions of Sonora, Chihuahua, Coahuila, Nuevo Leon and Tamaulipas are hot and arid in the summer and sometimes very cold in the winter. A tropical climate is found in Campeche, Chiapas, Yucatan, Tabasco and Oaxaca in the south of Mexico. 


Nature

Few nations on Earth support as many plant and animal species as Mexico does. Located partway between the Equator and the Arctic Circle, it’s a refuge for animals fleeing extreme cold in the north and intense heat in the south. 

In northern Mexico, deserts are full of plant and animal species that have found ways to survive the harsh environment. On Mexico's west coast, gray whales swim thousands of miles each year from Alaska to breed in the waters off Baja California.  

The rain forests and coastal wetlands of eastern Mexico are home to thousands of tropical plant species and elusive animals like jaguars and quetzal birds.

Language learning tools

The YouTube videos of Pod101 help you the master the basics of Spanish language and teach you words and short sentences that you will actually use in daily life: https://www.youtube.com/channe...

Language

Spanish

Spanish, the official language of Mexico, is spoken by nearly the entire population and thus gives Mexico the world's largest Spanish-speaking community. Mexican Spanish is polite, clear and easy to understand, and it is not spoken as quickly as in Spain and some other South American countries. Due to the clear pronunciation, many foreigners actually find it easier to learn Spanish in Mexico than in Spain. Our experience is that after 3 months exchange students are really able to speak basic Spanish and some of them even start dreaming in it, since they are practicing it so intensively during the day.

Language learning tips

From language books to online courses, literally hundreds of companies dedicate themselves to helping people write and speak Spanish. Unfortunately, despite any of their claims, there are no easy tricks or shortcuts to successful learning. The real key is simply to immerse yourself in the language and practice, practice, practice. Read newspapers and magazines. Watch television and films. Listen to the radio. Chat with the neighbors. Constant exposure to Spanish is a necessity. The more you place yourself in situations where your native language cannot be used as a crutch, the quicker you will learn Spanish.

Language lessons are not obligatory, however we do recommend you to learn some frequently used words and easy sentences that you can use in everyday life. Just so you feel more comfortable when you first arrive in your host family. This will show that you are willing to make an effort, which is a good starting point for your exchange experience and building social relations.

Movies and music

Music

Mariachi is a form of folk music from Mexico that began as a regional folk style called “Son Jaliscience” in the center west of Mexico. It was originally played with string instruments only. From the 19th to 20th century, migrations from rural areas into cities such as Guadalajara and Mexico City, along with the Mexican government's cultural promotion, gradually re-labeled it as Son style, with its alternative name “mariachi”. Modifications of the music include the addition of trumpets and the use of charro outfits by mariachi musicians. The musical style began to take on national prominence in the first half of the 20th century, being promoted at presidential inaugurations and on the radio in the 1920s. In 2011, UNESCO recognized Mexican mariachi music as an Intangible Cultural Heritage.

Telenovas

Another popular thing Spanish love to do, is watching telenovas, or Spanish soaps. Many Mexicans don’t want to miss a single episode. At first, it might seem quite a silly hobby, but you’ll notice that after a while, this will contribute to your language learning. You’ll start to understand more and more of the storyline throughout your exchange. Check out this overview of the most popular telenovas: http://www.todotnv.com/categoria/telenovelas/telenovelas-mexicanas-2. Most of them, however, can also be seen on YouTube, so start catching up already before you leave!

Watch an episode of 'La Vecina' here:

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