Study Abroad: Opportunities Abound

Over the past few months I’ve written on Mexican President Peña Nieto’s commitment to reform, tourism in Mexico, and lately I’ve been focused on the transformation and opening up of the country’s energy sector.

You can find my pieces on each of these topics here, as well as Stratfor’s solid analysis of this week’s Mexican Presidential address here. But, as students head back to school, I’ve had parents ask me about study abroad opportunities, particularly in Mexico, so I thought that today I might touch on that subject.

During my twelve years here in Mexico, I’ve had the opportunity to meet with U.S. students of all ages—high school, college, and post-graduate—who were studying Spanish or spending a semester abroad. In 2011-2012, some 3,800 Americans picked Mexico as their study abroad destination. And in 2013, the U.S. government even started a program to promote student exchanges south of the border—the 100,000 Strong in the Americas program—which as its name might suggest, aims to have 100,000 U.S. students studying across the western hemisphere by 2020.

I truly believe that study abroad is one of the best ways for the next generations to understand the world, and in this case their neighbors. And, there are opportunities for students of all ages to gain this experience. For high school students, programs like AFS place students with host families across the country, while Amigos de las Américas offer summer programs and gap years. For college students, programs such as CIEE and IFSA-Butler place students in various parts of the country, and other simply enroll directly in some of Mexico’s top universities, including UNAM, Tech de Monterrey, ITAM, and Universidad de Guadalajara. After graduation, prestigious programs such as Fulbright fund graduates to teach English, conduct research, and intern with businesses.

It’s true that in recent years the number of students spending a semester or two in Mexico has fallen (due in part to U.S. travel warnings), but increasingly more universities are reexamining their blanket policies. To check out the state-by-state travel advisories, the State Department lists them here.

Mexican students, too, are heading north, with 14,200 students enrolled in U.S. universities in 2012-2013. According to the Institute of International Education (IIE), some 38 percent were studying business or engineering (the two most popular fields). And, similar to the U.S. program, Mexico also hopes to boost the number of its students studying abroad in the region with the launch of its own program: Proyecta 100,000.

For those of you interested in living abroad, you may also want to consider joining the over 750,000 Americans (though some say now over 1 million) who are already working or retiring in Mexico.

We all know about popular places like San Miguel de AllendeAjijic, and Lake Chapala, but as U.S. air carriers increase their routes, Americans are reinventing themselves in places from Baja California to the Yucatán to the Riviera Nayarit.

And, Texans should especially be keeping a close eye on Cabo San Lucas and the surrounding area. Long popular with Californians, the region is expected to attract more visitors from Texas as expanding infrastructure makes it easier to reach cities like Todos Santos and La Paz.

Last month, Southwest Airlines took over Air Tran’s routes to Cabo San Lucas and Cancun and is expected to expand services into more Mexico destinations. Already, and in recent years, U.S. carriers have been moving into regional hubs including Morelia, Mérida (one of my favorite cities), Querétaro, San Luis Potosí, Aguascalientes, and Torreón. And, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the great job done by Mexican airlines such as Interjet in connecting the U.S. and Mexico.

If you’re thinking about moving to Mexico, have studied abroad, or are considering so, I would love to hear your thoughts. As always, do not hesitate to call, write, or connect with me on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. I look forward to hearing from you.


Antonio Garza

  • The Atlantic Council’s just released report, Mexico: Ready to Launch, offers some keen insight and analysis of the implementation of energy reforms, prospects for foreign investment and impact on Mexico’s energy markets. The full report is available here.
  • Ambassador Garza will participate on Saturday, Sept. 20 in the Texas Tribune Festival, a public policy forum, as a panelist on What Mexican Energy Reform Means to Texas. Registration information and the full conference schedule can be found online.
  • You can find my recent viewpoints on energy and other reforms in Mexico, as well as the latest analysis and studies from White & Case on my website here.