A Guide To Interning Abroad in Mexico
As the world’s largest population of Spanish speakers, Mexico is ideal for those looking to improve their Spanish fluency while interning abroad. In addition to endless beaches and world-renowned resorts, Mexico is home to the largest metropolitan area in the Western Hemisphere, Mexico City. Thanks to the inexpensive cost of living, interns in Mexico can live in paradise and break into the business world, while experiencing all that Mexico has to offer. By joining internships in Mexico, interns can explore the nation’s rich ancient Olmec, Mayan, and Aztec culture and ruins, including one of the Seven Wonders of the World, Chichén Itzá.
Mexico City is the capital and largest city in Mexico. It is known as the country’s political, economic, and social hub, making it the perfect location for internships in Mexico. Internships in Mexico City are especially perfect for those interested in gaining experience within the business realm.
Guadalajara, Monterrey, and Puebla make up the remaining major cities in Mexico where internship placements, such as journalism, marketing and public relations, and strategic branding, are the most common. Other options are also available in these cities as well, including hospitality, healthcare, community development, multimedia, and education internships.
Oaxaca, one of the safest and most culturally-rich cities in Mexico, is conversely less affluent and developed. It is home to sixteen indigenous groups (with hundreds of subgroups) and is known for its sandy Pacific beaches, abundance of ancient archaeological sites, and extraordinary cuisine. Tourism is the primary industry of Oaxaca, therefore the main focus for internship placements in Oaxaca are tourism and hospitality, with conservation options available as well.
While also a popular location for tourism, hospitality, and conservation, Cancun is much more commercial than Oaxaca. For those wanting to work in prestigious resorts attracting around four million visitors per year, Cancun is the perfect fit.
Journalism, business, hospitality, tourism, and conservation are the most common placements for interning in Mexico. While business opportunities are most readily available in the bigger cities, Mexico has numerous attractions and destinations that provide tourism internships all over the country. Conservation internships, such as placements working on sea turtle research, can most often be found in the coastal cities of Mexico.
Business hours typically run from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., though not all internships in Mexico are full-time and most businesses are closed Saturday afternoons and all day on Sundays. Many businesses are also closed on either Mondays or Tuesdays, and a daily siesta from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. is still fairly common throughout Mexico.
Promptness is not a major concern and schedules are flexible, but personability is a virtue for interns in Mexico. Be friendly, ask questions, and share personal stories - make an effort to get to know your colleagues. Mexico is a great place to network and build connections while interning abroad.
While Spanish is the official language of Mexico and some level of proficiency will be preferred, it is not always required. Many internship programs in Mexico offer extensive Spanish language training, as well as planned cultural experiences and activities to expand opportunities for language learning and practice. English is common in tourism and hospitality placements and in coastal resort areas, so English fluency is often a necessity when interning in the latter locations and fields. In more rural areas, such as Oaxaca, you can also expect to encounter Indigenous languages.
Internships in Mexico may last anywhere from one month to several months, though six months is a pretty common duration.
The Peso is the national currency of Mexico and foreign money tends to go a very long way if you are smart and avoid touristy areas and guided activities. Even so, regardless of where you are interning in Mexico, you can expect to pay much less than you would in the U.S., UK, or other Western countries.
It is important to note that you should expect to budget a bit extra into the total of most costs to account for tips because tipping is standard and expected for most services provided in Mexico. Not only is it how workers earn a living wage, but it is a good way to show appreciation for quality service and may even ensure special treatment. The amount needed will depend on the job done. Ten to 20 percent of the total cost is a good rule of thumb for restaurant servers, taxi drivers, tour guides, spa service providers, etc., while small jobs, like bagging groceries or filling your car and washing your windshield, will merit simple amounts like five to 10 pesos, a smile, and gracias.
Though there are (mostly business) internships that offer monetary compensation, the majority of internships in Mexico are not paid. Some may even include a program cost, which is to be expected for conservation positions especially. Most programs will at least offer guidance for obtaining a visa and housing, as well as be available to answer any questions you have as you prepare for your trip.
Travelers staying less than six months are exempt from needing a visa to intern abroad in Mexico. Requirements for an entry visa are only a valid passport at the time of entry and a Mexican Tourist Card, which is filled out on the airplane and stamped at customs. The Mexican Tourist Card contains questions regarding purpose and length of stay only, but do not lose it! You will need it in order to leave the country and return home. A small tourist fee is usually included in the price of the plane ticket as well, or is required to be paid to a Mexican bank at any point during your visit if arriving by land.
If planning to stay and intern in Mexico for longer than six months, in addition to a valid passport, visitors are required to fill out an application for a business visit visa, which can be lengthy.
Nearly all programs in Mexico offer housing accommodation or selection assistance, most often in homestays. However, more popular programs sometimes offer shared housing for all interns in a group living arrangement. Food is also generally provided as compensation for work or as part of internship program fees. In addition to building relationships and ethnic experiences by living with a host family, there’s not much that beats a home-cooked authentic Mexican meal!
Compared to other Central American countries where it is the standard, hitchhiking is not recommended in Mexico. And although renting a car allows for freedom and room for supplies, it can be expensive and insurance is essential - drivers in Mexico can be bold and noisy! The bus system will be the best option for getting to and from internships in Mexico. It is inexpensive and though often late, is reliable.
Thriving Economy. Mexico’s economy is relevant and on the rise, the growth of the Mexican economy has been a primary focus of President Pena Nieto.
Extracurriculars. Mexicans are very proud of their rich heritage and they know how to celebrate it! Be aware of festivals and holidays going on during your stay, as it is sure to be something you won’t want to miss.
Safety. It can be dangerous to travel alone at night (especially for women), so stay in groups and keep valuable possessions close or out of sight.
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