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Mexico City's National University

Students looking for a unique study abroad experience featuring Spanish and Latin American culture, should check out Mexico City's UNAM.
The Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico (the National Autonomous University of Mexico) or UNAM, is the best institute of higher learning in Latin America and one of the top hundred universities in the world, according to The Times of London. With over 260,000 students and 300 programs of study, UNAM is also one of the largest universities in the world, situated in one of the largest cities.
UNAM’s main campus, known as University City (Cuidad Universitaria), is next to Mexico City’s bohemian Coyoacan neighborhood, an area full of gardens, plazas, restaurants, cafes, and picturesque colonial architecture. UNAM also has extension programs in Chicago, Los Angeles, San Antonio, and Quebec, as well as online.

UNAM Facts

  • Founded in 1551, UNAM is the second oldest university in the Americas. Mexico’s university has been around 85 years longer than Harvard, the first university in the United States.
  • University City, with nearly 100 buildings spread over 800 acres, is built atop an ancient lava bed.
  • UNAM conducts half of Mexico’s research, in fields ranging from anthropology to neurobiology to oceanography.
  • From 1970 to 1994, all of Mexico’s presidents were UNAM grads.
  • Eleven museums and a botanical garden are part of UNAM.
  • Over three million naturally-colored stone and glass tiles make up the mosaic covering the four exterior walls of the UNAM Library.
  • UNAM’s Olympic Stadium, which seats 80,000, hosted the 1968 Olympics and 1986 World Cup.

Language & Culture Program

A thorough placement test, eight different levels of language study, and class sizes capped at 15 students help ensure that students will get the most out of their time at the Center for Foreign Education(CEPE – Centro de Enseñanza Para Extranjeros,). But that’s just the beginning. CEPE, which has been around for 80 years, helps student immerse themselves in Latin American culture through formal art, history, and literature classes and through informal activities like concerts and plays and celebrations of local holidays.
Because UNAM doesn’t have dorms, CEPE students are further integrated into Mexican life by living with local families during their stay. Best of all, tuition and other expenses are relatively cheap – especially compared to other study abroad options! Students can also choose to study in CEPE’s smaller program in the historic hillside town of Taxco de Alarcon, if living in a huge metropolis doesn’t sound appealing.

Resources for International Students

  • Gaceta – Find out what’s happening on campus with this twice-weekly paper
  • Pumas Soccer – Get into futbol-mania with Mexico’s national champions
  • Alberca Olimpica – Head to this huge sports complex for swimming, basketball, volleyball, and more.
  • Centro Cultural Universario (CCU) – Many of UNAMs cultural events occur in this building complex, which includes a concert hall, theater, music hall, dance hall, and movie theaters.

Famous Alumni

  • Alfonso Garcia Robles, Nobel Peace Prize winner
  • Andres Manuel Lopez Oberon, mayor of Mexico City and 2006 Mexican presidential hopeful
  • Carlos Fuente, award-winning author
  • Carlos Slim Helu, telecommunications magnate and second richest person in the world
  • Luis Miramontes, co-inventor of the contraceptive pill
  • Mario Molina, Nobel Prize winner in Chemistry
UNAM is one of the biggest and best universities in Latin America. In addition to the language and culture program, foreign students already fluent in Spanish can spend a semester or year taking any of the courses offered by the university. In short, anyone thinking about studying abroad in Latin America should consider Mexico's National University.