Three years ago, I decided to go to Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, to enroll in El Progama de Licenciatura en Historia (a degree program in history) at the Universidad Autónoma de Ciudad Juárez (University of Ciudad Juarez). The degree in history (BA) at the UACJ comprises 360 credits, which can be completed in 10 semesters, depending on the students’ course loads. I lived and studied in Mexico for a year, but I didn’t graduate from UACJ because I dropped out to become a freelance writer.
What life was like studying in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico? At first was very difficult to understand the teachers, to take notes, and to translate the words I didn’t know to English. So I spent many hours translating. My first semester grades were low, I was very disappointed, and I realized how different the education system was in Mexico compared to the USA. For example, if you get a 9.6 en promedio at the end of the semester, that means you are smart, but in America we don’t know what a promedio is? A 9.6 promedio is like having a 4.0 GPA.
The Mexican Education System. I was surprised to find out just how little Americans know about the education system in Mexico. For example, Mexicans learn Algebra 101 and geometry in 7th grade. In America, students learn algebra in 9th grade. The Mexicans have strong academic skills, and Mexicans students are required to become fluent in English if they want to obtain a M.A. from UACJ or from any other university.
What about housing and transportation? Forget about the dorms because Mexican Universities don’t have dorms. Mexicans kids don’t leave their homes when they have reached the age of majority. I noticed that many students either rent an apartment or live with his or her parents. Rent in Mexico is not expensive. I was renting a decent apartment for 2000 pesos (210 dollars). And public transportation in Mexico is very cheap; 40 cents a fare. You don’t have to wait too long because the buses run every 10 minutes.
Things to Consider if You Want to Study in Mexico
- Life in Mexico is obviously less expensive than in the USA. I lived very well without having a scholarship; however, most private universities in Mexico are often very expensive—students of foreign nationality have to pay more money than natural-born Mexican citizens. In other words, be ready to pay more money.
- Based on my opinion, Mexico is a beautiful country—more than you could ever imagine—but it is true that Mexico is a dangerous place to live if you don’t know what places to avoid.
- If you are not fluent in Spanish, don’t enroll in a Mexican University. In Mexico you will not find textbooks in English or bilingual programs for foreign students; Spanish is the only language you’ll hear spoken during classes.
- Most of the classes range from 10-30 students.
- Don’t expect professors to help you after class. Professors don’t give their phone number to students to make appointments.
- If you don’t have a FM3 (visa) to study in Mexico, you’ll not be able to enroll.
The registration requirements to enroll in a Mexican University for foreign students are the following:
- Take the EXHCOBA exam. (the admission exam). You’ll be tested in math, your quantitative skills, Spanish, science, and history.
- Being selected. In other words, in order to enroll, your name needs to appear in the published lists of students who passed the admission exam.
- To begin the enrollment process, you need to provide original documentation (no copies) requested by the Mexican Government; for example, you’ll need your birth certificate apostille and translated in Spanish. You will also need to apostille your high school diploma. You can still enroll if you don’t have your high school diploma apostille, but you have one month to submit the certificate to the Directorate General Preparatory Academic Services. If you don’t submit it, you’ll be suspended.
- A single classes can cost up to $1,100.00 M.N. (180 dollars).