Whether it’s history or art that fires you up, there is no shortage of inspiration in DF- Distrito Federal. Amid the energy of the largest Spanish-speaking city in the world, you can discover famous public murals alongside floating gardens, visit some 160 museums, and see visible signs of the sinking city at the old basilica, a pilgrimage site visited by millions every year. Despite being home to the oldest university in the Americas, international students and locals alike enjoy Mexico City’s hip and friendly neighborhoods full of vibrant parks, bohemian cafes, and electric nightlife; the city has aged well to say the least, making it an incredible place to study abroad in Mexico.
Studying Abroad in México City
The areas of study in Mexico City are as varied as the city itself, whether you are an expert or a beginner Spanish speaker. If you already have a high level of Spanish language skills, your options for study abroad in México City will be virtually endless, as you’ll be free to study at any one of the many universities based in the city. The National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), is not only the oldest and largest in the Americas, it’s also a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the highest-ranking Spanish-speaking university in the world. You’ll also find a branch of Tecnológico de Monterrey (ITESM) right in the heart of México City, as well as the Universidad Autonoma Metropolitana (UAM).
If your Spanish needs some work (or you speak none at all), don’t worry about feeling like a fool when you open your mouth. You’ll be welcomed with kindness anyway, and there are plenty of English-friendly study abroad programs in México City to choose from, most of which include Spanish language courses. Before you know it, your newfound language skills will roll right off the tongue!
It’s no surprise that students flock to Mexico City to study art, including studio art, design, and performing arts. You can even supplement your studies with visits to some Mexico’s great works of art. The Museo de Arte Moderno is a must see for pieces by muralists Rufino Tamayo, Diego Rivera, and Frida Kahlo, just to name a few. The mural art movement, which is highly visible in México City, brings light to the history of post-Revolution Mexico when art was used to unify the country politically and socially.
If your interest is in history, you’ll be pumped to learn that there are a plethora of sites to visit and study firsthand to learn more about the Maya and Aztec pre-historic cultures. You can also examine how these civilizations have shaped the city today by exploring ethnic studies and the roles of and interactions between gender, culture, and race in Mexico. Other popular subjects of study in México City include religion, environmental studies, international relations, and social justice.
Many study abroad programs in México City have a service learning component, such as teaching English at a local high school, serving food in a homeless shelter, or providing basic health care through some type of community center. Volunteering outside of the classroom will allow you go beyond the perspective of a tourist and totally immerse yourself in the culture while positively impact local communities.
Life in Mexico City
There is no reason to be intimidated by Mexico City, although the magnitude of the city may leave you awestruck. It’s easy to manage the city’s ultra-safe metro and metrobus system; at 5 pesos a ride, it’s one of the cheapest metros in the world. Many neighborhoods are actually quite walkable, with tree-lined streets and center walkways, making it all the more enticing to taste some rico street food.
You’ll definitely want to spend some time in Condesa. Filled with parks (where you might see dog walkers with a dozen dogs or more), music venues, small galleries, and trendy new restaurants, Condesa attracts students, artists, and young locals alike. Condesa offers a more residential view of the city, away from the always busy tourist traps.
Coyoacan is another neighborhood worth visiting while studying abroad in México City. Home to Frida Kahlo’s Casa Azul, Coyoacan hits the spot when you really need a break from the traffic and crowds. Coyoacan was originally a separate village to the south of Mexico City, but as the city grew, it became part of the larger city. It’s also close to University City, where UNAM and ITESM are located, and where tons of students hang out.
On a nice weekend, head to Chapultepec Park and take a walk down the Reforma, the main drag of the city. Xochimilco, best known for the ancient canals and floating gardens (or Chinampas), is another great place to take a break from the hustle and bustle of city life. If you need to get out of the city entirely, take a day trip to the ancient site of Teotihuacan to soak up some history. While you’re there, check out the Avenue of the Dead and climb the Pyramids of the Moon and Sun.
Accommodations & Visas
Homestays are commonly provided for students through most study abroad programs in México City, offering a true glimpse into Mexican life. Homestays also an affordable way to live (and eat), as delicious homemade meals are typically included. Don’t worry about feeling shy to dive in, your host mom will likely tell you, “Eat more!” while your mouth is literally still full. You’ll also have the chance to play cards at the dinner table or gossip about the latest telenovela with your host family, or you might even be invited to a Mexican wedding or family reunion. Family is a central pillar in Mexican life, and there is no better way to understand this than by living with a local host family.
If planning to study abroad in México City for 90 days or less, most foreigners do not need a visa, and students can typically extend for up to six months without much hassle. If you are studying in México City for longer, you’ll typically need to apply for a Temporary Resident Visa. Although you’ll apply in your home country for the Temporary Visa, once you arrive in Mexico, you’ll need to visit the local immigration office within 30 days to secure the visa. It’s way easier than it sounds though!
Be sure to check out GoAbroad’s Mexican Embassy Directory for current visa application requirements for Mexico.
Benefits & Challenges
Mexico City may seem daunting at first, and it certainly takes some time to learn the ins and outs of the immense metropolis. Nevertheless, Mexico City, ancient and youthful all at once, promises to illuminate the senses as one of the great cities of the world. Students looking for the dynamic energy of a huge city are sure to thrive in the magnetic pulse of this urban jungle, but those seeking a quieter experience will have to look harder for it.
Expose yourself to the social and economic complexities and contrasts that exist as a microcosm within the city. You’ll see both dramatic wealth and impoverished slums, and be forced to try to make sense of the disparities.
It’s helpful, though not essential, to at least have a basic working knowledge of Spanish to best take advantage of all the city has to offer. Take a few lessons or learn some key phrases before you board the plane for study abroad in México City. To enroll directly in Mexican universities, you’ll likely need to be proficient in Spanish.
Once the center of the Aztec empire, Mexico City’s town square, Zócolo, sits on the same spot where Montezuma’s palace once stood. Remnants of the fascinating history are still alive today.
With an intensity and vitality as vibrant as the banda music playing on the streets, La Ciudad de México will deliver. It will incite a desire to learn, inspire you with its artistic spirit, and ignite a connection to the passionate people that won’t soon be forgotten.