2015 has been dubbed the Dual Year of Mexico in the UK and the UK in Mexico by the governments of both respective countries. At York, the Mexican student population has always been a relatively small but always vibrant group.
The Mexican Society
For instance, the Mexican Society – existing now in the expanded form of the Latin American Society – has played an important role in promoting Mexican culture on campus and in the wider community, as well as providing a support network to those students far from home.
The Society has grown since its inception – today around three quarters of members are not Latin American at all, but interested in the Latin American culture. Their programme includes dance classes and salsa nights, film screenings, BBQs, and Spanish language classes.
York’s Mexican alumni
Meanwhile, over in Mexico, February saw the inaugural social event for the UK Alumni Association Mexico (UKAAM), a national initiative to connect all Mexico-based alumni from all major UK universities. York staff and alumni were among the 220 guests, from over 25 different UK universities, present at the social event in Mexico City.
Lorena Lopez is a former York student from Mexico (PhD in Education in 2011), who has settled in the city, and now works in the Department of Language and Linguistic Science as an Associate Lecturer in Spanish.
Lorena is keen to give her students exposure to cultural and linguistic knowledge beyond the Castilian influences of Spain. In November 2014, Lorena invited His Excellency Diego Gomez Pickering (Ambassador of Mexico to the UK) to campus for a public lecture.
‘Rising Mexico’ also included contributions from Mexican Politics PhD students Walid Tijerina Sepúlveda (‘Mexico amidst new horizons’) and Carlos Solar (‘Re-thinking security: towards a safer Mexico’) and PhD Economics student Rubén Mártinez Cárdenas (‘Scarcity within abundance: calling for a comprehensive change’). More than 100 people attended, including staff and students from other universities in the region.
Lorena has also been instrumental in setting up York’s first ever exchange partnership in Latin America, with the Universidad de las Americas, Puebla. The first York students are due to head to Puebla in August 2016, whilst York look forward to welcoming our Mexican exchange students in the September.
(An additional Latin American exchange is also under negotiation with a university in Santiago de Chile, again led by Lorena, with support by the Department of History).
“As a Mexican living in the UK, I feel that it is my responsibility to promote the richness of my culture and that of Latin America as a whole. I cannot say it enough; it is a privilege to be able to work in an area that allows me to do this, and my best reward is to see an increasing number of students and people in general, turning their eyes to us. Us here and us over there!”
Mexico is also one of several countries (including Brazil, Indonesia, Malaysia, South Africa, India and Egypt) to have seen a notable increase in the number of available Chevening scholarships available for Masters study in the UK for 2016.
From just 16 awarded scholarships in 2015, there will be 81 Chevening scholarships on offer for 2016 (deadline: 3 November 2015).
Bruno Barboza, York’s most recent Chevening schlolar, is just finishing his MSc in Human-Centred Interactive Technologies degree. He says:
“As a Chevening scholar, I was involved in many events throughout the UK which gave me a chance of travelling the country and involve myself more with the culture, seeing many historic castles and beautiful landscapes, one of my favourites was in Bangor in Wales, where I had a chance of trying out traditional dances and climb Mt. Snowdon, the highest mountain in Wales!
“York is a beautiful and safe city to live in, with many things to see – you never get bored of it! It was all a great experience that I will never forget.”
As the Dual Year draws to a close, we hope that York’s relationship with Mexico continues to grow and strengthen, and that our Mexican student and graduate community continue to add their own special spice to this corner of Yorkshire, and to bring a touch of Yorkshire back to their homeland.
Featured image credit: Alejandro Islas Photograph AC