170,000 square kilometers of “Protected Natural Areas” in a country called the “navel of the Moon”, which in thirty thousand years has seen numerous millennial civilizations coexist and alternate, from the Olmecs to the Mayans to the Aztecs.
Its history, from the oldest to the most recent, has strongly influenced the architecture, art, language and lifestyle of its inhabitants. It is Mexico, a Central American republic made up of thirty-one states plus the Federal District of Mexico City, home of the sombreros and Mariachi who sing “Ay, ay, ay, ay, sing and don’t cry. Because singing, rejoice, oh beautiful sky, all hearts “.
The school programs, annual and semester, take place in collaboration with AFS Mexico, an organization active for over forty years, with local centers located mainly in the center and in the south of the country, where students are hosted by a family and attend a high school.
The arrival airport is Benito Juárez in Mexico City, in the vicinity of which a two or three day training meeting is held with volunteers to guide the boys in the initial setting and provide them with useful information on life and Mexican traditions. A new local meeting takes place between January and February to evaluate the progress of the program. Before returning to Italy, the last appointment is scheduled for a final evaluation of the experience and to prepare for the return home.
Some differences between the Mexican and Italian high schools are evident: the more informal relationship between students and teachers, the duration (three years), the age of the students (from 15 to 17 years) and the fact that the schools can be public or private, mixed or formed by only males or only females. For the rest, many features are common to the two systems, such as the school calendar (the year starts in September and ends in June, with two main holiday periods in December and April / May) and the lesson times, which usually they take place from 7:00 to 14:00 – although some institutions may have afternoon courses.
AFS students are usually enrolled in the first or second year, but may also be admitted to the last year, at the discretion of the schools. Mathematics, biology, chemistry, physics, history, Spanish literature, psychology, one or more foreign languages and law are the disciplines most frequently offered.
In many schools it is not usual to host foreign students, so it is easy to make friends and it is normal that in the early days foreign children are the center of attention of their classmates.
Sometimes Mexican schools organize extracurricular afternoon activities, sports teams or different courses (music, typical dances, etc.); otherwise it is possible to carry out courses and sports activities privately, as in Italy.
In spite of everything, the educational system in Mexico is very conservative and discipline is fundamental: it is important to wear appropriate clothing and behavior and it is absolutely forbidden to smoke at school, to have piercings or tattoos . Some schools require students to wear the uniform, the cost of which is borne by the participants.
Mexican families are quite conservative and often very protective of their children and AFS students; young people, in fact, go out in groups only with the approval of their parents, who impose a curfew on them to respect. Alcohol abuse is absolutely unacceptable for host families and local communities .
As in many Latin American countries, male children often have more freedom than female children, although when it comes to housework, all family members are expected to work together.
The family has an essential role in the life of each Mexican: lunch and dinner are important meeting moments, during which students taste the typical local cuisine, notoriously very spicy and spicy, based mainly on meat (which is why it is very difficult to find families willing to host children with food restrictions ).
In addition to meals, it is customary to organize family gatherings with relatives and close friends with whom we often spend Sundays.
Mexican families prefer to host non-smokers. Students who suffer from asthma may have some adaptation problems due to Mexican weather conditions.
The predominant religion is officially the Catholic one (89%); however, a syncretist religion is very widespread, mixing Christianity and some elements of the ancient Aztec and Mayan cults.
Mexico is a country with great climatic diversity. The country’s geographical position places it in two distinct areas separated from the Tropic of Cancer. This parallel could ideally separate the country into a tropical region and a temperate region. However, the topography and the presence of the oceans have a great influence on the formation of the Mexican climate map. In this way, in Mexico you can find the cold climates of the mountain peaks a few hundred kilometers from the warmer climates of the coastal plain. The average temperature in the country varies between 15 and 25 ° C.