If you’re thinking of going to Mexico for research…
First of all, where in Mexico do you want to go?
Mexico is as big as 24 European countries.
It includes different climate zones, an incredible amount of biospheres, different native populations, different kinds of cities.
If you want to research the desert, or the sea, or the Mayan and Nahuatl ruins, you can choose among different locations.
If you want to research biotechnologies, the Inter-American Human Rights Court, or aerospace engineering, there are universities and research centers in different cities.
Do your homework and you will find an incredible variety of possibilities scattered around the country.
Secondly, if you are coming from Europe, be prepared to experience some cultural differences.
The cost of living is much lower, which for a Ph.D. student is always a good thing. However, reserve part of your budget for things like health insurance and buying a car.
Most Mexican cities, do not have reliable public transportation, so having a car (and being able to drive) is probably not a luxury.
There is something particularly important that I feel like stressing here: stop considering Mexico as a war zone.
The Zika virus epidemic?
It barely happened in Southern Mexico and was absent in the rest of the country.
Food poisoning? Never happened to me even when I started eating at markets or street stands (ok, I did take some precautions there). You might need some standard vaccines, but the food is mostly safe and incredibly delicious (and I say that as an Italian!).
Do not imagine Mexico as the old wild west, with random shootings and crazy criminality.
Mexico City, for example, is a safe, incredible metropolis, with arts, culture, fashion, design, and architecture.
In general, in Mexico, people live normal lives, just like in the States or in Europe.
One must, indeed, take some precautions, and there might be some zones that are considered less or not safe. However, it is possible to study, work, and research without any problems, just by being careful and having common sense, as everywhere else.
Third: Mexico is full of professional opportunities.
There are several excellent Universities, some famous worldwide, and plenty of specializations and programs.
There is a National Research System with which researchers need to register.
It may appear complicated, with different levels and requirements, but it is absolutely worth registering with it, as a formal recognition of your hard work and as an important requirement for career advancements.
There are associations of professionals, such as the AMDI of which I am part, composed of exceptional experts, which offer a great opportunity for networking. There is a remarkable presence of international companies and firms.
One thing that struck me and still surprises me about Mexico is how dynamic it is – Mexicans never stop.
Every Mexican I talk to has started their own little enterprise, is part of at least two or three professional associations, volunteers (they start at University as a mandatory requirement established by the law), takes part in conferences and online courses, and does a lot of sport.
Universities often require their Professors to take a certain number of courses, take part in external projects with companies, or international competitions and conventions.
This is a breath of fresh air for me, and if embraced, can stimulate a Ph.D. student a lot.
It also helps with fighting frustration and isolation and creating a solid and reliable network of friends and colleagues.
Finally, what I suggest is to learn the language.
Spanish is a wonderful language, and it is spoken in so many countries, so it is indeed very useful.
Very few Mexicans speak English outside of the international universities and companies, so this might help you in your daily life, because.
As a plus, literature, cinema and the proverbial irony of Mexicans are much more enjoyable if you learn Spanish.
Visit the country and its amazing attractions.
Eat the incredible, fresh food.
Buy from local native populations or artists.
Try popular activities and hobbies.
Talk to the people.
Mexicans are lively, fun, nice, friendly, and full of surprises.
Ask for the names of the old ladies and men in small, dusty stores.
Let them tell you their anecdotes. Smile and greet.
Ask for support if you need to, and everyone will try and help you the best they can.
This way, when your research is completed, you will not only have your data, your paper, or your thesis: you will also have a full life experience in your luggage.