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International Development in Mexico – Natalie Beaton


After finishing up my university degree I was looking for a way to see a new part of the world while getting some experience in international development. After doing some research I found Projects Abroad. I chose to travel to Mexico because I wanted to improve my Spanish and I have always loved Mexican culture. As my trip drew closer I was very excited to travel on my own for the first time but also very nervous to leave the comforts of home.

Arriving in Guadalajara

I left the winter behind in Canada and after a long day of travelling I arrived in Guadalajara. I was greeted by Projects Abroad and taken to my host families home where they waited up for me even though it was very late. The next day I woke up to a delicious breakfast and beautiful weather. My host family was so welcoming and made my time in Mexico even better than I could have imagined. They thought me so much about the area and their culture as well as helped my improve my Spanish immensely. Not to mention they feed me amazing meals!

My first day in Guadalajara the Projects Abroad staff gave me a tour of the city, answered all my questions and treated me to an amazing meal The staff was always there to answer my questions, give advice and plan social events for all the other volunteers. The city of Guadalajara has lots of beautiful buildings and museums. It is a city full of culture.

Visiting Mexico

I fell in love with it instantly! It always had something to do with lots of festivals, markets, and bars to go to. The buses took a few days to get used to sine they run like the ones at home but I quickly got a hang of them. The culture of Mexico is much more laidback and vibrant. It was such a great thing to experience first-hand in this city through festivals and speaking with the locals.

Much of my time in Guadalajara was spent exploring the city and the local area. Through Projects Abroad I meet many of the other volunteers with whom I explored the city’s night life and travelled to the local sights. Many of our weekend nights were spent enjoying the local bars and restaurants in the Chapultepec while the days were spent travelling to places like Tequila, Puerto Vallarta, and Chapala.

There was much to do in Guadalajara itself. Each Monday we would attend salsa classes in the city and there were always great markets on Sundays. The six weeks in Guadalajara was so much fun thanks to the energy of the city, the other volunteers and thanks to the Projects Abroad staff.

Spanish classes

Volunteering abroad

The first two weeks of my time in Guadalajara was spent in taking Spanish lessons. It was a great to have one on one lesson with my amazing teachers. I started off with very little Spanish and very little confidence but after just two weeks I felt so much more comfortable and started making more conversations with my host family and local people. This was so valuable and definitely added so much to my experience in Mexico.

International Development

My placement was at the NGO ‘Instituto Mexicano para el Desarrollo Comunitario (IMDEC)’ that promotes community rights. I was excited to work with this group because I am very passionate about human and community rights. The main project that IMDEC was working on at the time I was there was projecting a local community for flooding from a creation of a dam and pollution in a local river that has been causing health problems. My main duties were editing and research for their documents and correspondence. It was a great opportunity to help with these projects to improve these communities and giving voices to the local people.

Final thoughts

During my time in Mexico, I have so many incredible experiences. My project left my filling fulfilled and with new skills in the field of international development. My host family and one on one language classes improved my Spanish and understanding of Mexico culture more than any other experience could. I travelled to Mexico to grow my experience in international development but I left with so much more than that.

The invaluable experience of travelling the region whether it e to the beautiful beaches or mountain villages with the other volunteers who are now lifetime friends is what made my trip so great. Thanks to Projects Abroad I had an amazing two months in Mexico I left Mexico with a true understanding of its culture, so many new friends, slightly better Spanish and many great memories!

Natalie Beaton

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