Lily Baker Haynes
Lily spent a year of her degree studying at Universidad de las Américas Puebla (UDLAP) in Mexico.
On choosing to study abroad
The opportunity to study abroad was a key part of deciding which universities to apply to, as an interest in experiencing and being immersed in other cultures is hugely important to me. Growing up in London and Australia encouraged me to be curious and engaged, and travel in South America further ensured this.
As a result, I chose Manchester because of the combination of a dynamic and broad Geography course and department in an exciting city, together with the significant opportunities of study abroad and Spanish-speaking partner universities available.
On applying for my placement
The first semester of second year is the start of the application process, and my priority was to apply for a place in Latin America, so luckily UDLAP was my first option, followed by Granada.
After a long and somewhat nerve-wracking few months, I gained a place at UDLAP, and I chose Mexico largely for the opportunity to push my Spanish language skills, become fluent, experience new landscapes, cultures and meet new people, in addition to the fact that I hope to live and work in Latin America in the future.
On studying abroad as a geographer
Particularly for a geographer, studying abroad really does provide you with lots of new opportunities and stimuli, giving context to much of the theory that we write and learn about. In my case, I gained lots of inspiration for my dissertation research, which I carried out in Puebla, through which I learned new perspectives on theory.
More specifically, this research centred on feminist geography in terms of broadening the discipline's foci and research into the multi-faceted and diverse experiences of women in spaces across the world, while at the same time having a positive social impact.
Furthermore, the context for feminist studies in Mexico is significantly different from those in the UK and Western Europe, providing me with new perspectives and ideas.
On the cultural experience
The new learning environment and very different university culture and style enabled me to broaden my focus of study to include international relations and anthropology. I loved speaking Spanish all day, every day, and feeling more and more confident in my abilities, through speaking with people with diverse backgrounds and experiences, while exploring beautiful Mexico.
The diverse and delicious food was definitely another highlight and is so varied between states and cities as if I needed another excuse to see as much of the country (and surrounding countries) as possible!
On travelling abroad
Throughout the year, I explored many different parts of Mexico, as well as El Salvador, Guatemala and Cuba, and learnt lots about present and prehispanic culture, seeing a lot of churches, pyramids, beautiful fruit and veg markets, stunning artesanías, but most importantly meeting people from all over México and Central America, as well as fellow international students.
On recommending studying abroad
I couldn't recommend study abroad highly enough, in terms of both academic and social reasons.
Living in a new country is an amazing opportunity that doesn't necessarily come around that often, and being able to broaden academic study outside of geography, and outside of the UK context is also an important way to gain new skills and knowledge.
Furthermore, although it's not for everyone, being able to truly test and improve your foreign language skills is an important experience that I will take with me into the future, with the aim of returning to Latin America after graduating to work and live, and potentially to continue further study.