Internship in Mexico

Queensland student Esther Manning spends 3 months on an internship at Tecnológico de Monterrey.

Nothing could have prepared me for the inspiring and life-changing experience that was the Universitas 21 Summer School at Tecnológico de Monterrey, Querétaro, Mexico. 

In July 2012, I spent three weeks in the company of diverse, intelligent individuals from universities across the world. As a direct result of this programme, the positive potential of a valuable and unique study abroad experience captured my imagination, and I was inspired to return to Mexico to discover how this experience is created.

My internship at the International Programs Office, Campus Querétaro, began in January 2013. At the conclusion of my first day, I had already learnt an important lesson: practicing Spanish in a classroom is a whole different kettle of fish to having multiple people attempting to converse with you in a workplace setting. Talk about a challenge! I can safely say that my Spanish has improved substantially since this day and I am forever in debt to the patient people who assisted me along the way.

I worked alongside four other interns in the office, three from America and one from Switzerland. I have no doubt that the bonds formed between us will last a lifetime and without them, this experience would not have been the same. I was responsible for assisting both the Academic Coordinator and Incoming Students Coordinator. My tasks included events and logistics planning, answering student enquiries, designing an Orientation experience for summer students and various other activities.

I learnt how to communicate across language barriers when my Spanish vocabulary didn’t extend far past ‘si’ and ‘no.’ I learnt that if I paid close attention to gestures, I gained an indication of the topic of conversation and I could eventually piece together the details. Understanding comes first when learning a new language from scratch. 

I also had numerous opportunities to network. During an event called Global Faculty the campus hosted twelve internationally renowned professors. I discussed new areas of international relations research with one professor (my major was peace and conflict studies) and gained insight into international education work opportunities with another from Australia. 

In March, after meeting the assistant to the Australian Ambassador, I was also invited to the Australian Embassy in Mexico City for a tour. This provided me with first-hand knowledge of Australia-Mexico relations and insight into future plans to develop this relationship.

My internship was a continuous learning experience. I met amazing people from across the globe and had the opportunity to voice my ideas regarding improvements to the services offered by international programmes. 
To this day, returning to Mexico, was simultaneously the scariest and best decision I have ever made. Scary… because when I made the decision I was well aware that I would be travelling half a world away from a safety network of family and established friendships, and it was the best because it challenged me, changed me and allowed me to form new lifelong friendships. 

I owe this entire experience to the Universitas 21 programme that sowed the seed of curiosity in my mind and kick started my determination to return. I could not imagine the last year of my life without it. I can only express gratitude to the organisers and advocates of international study experiences such as this and hope that many more students will have opportunities to benefit from similar events.

Esther Manning
University of Queensland