Hasta La Vista: Mexico year-abroad programme cancelled due to cost of living

An annual study programme set to take place in Mexico has been cancelled this year due to cost of living fears. 

The British Council – which runs English language assistant schemes in 14 countries – had assessed that the monthly allowance was not suitable for students in the context of the cost-of-living crisis. 

In recent years, students have been able to do private work such as tutoring to subsidise their living costs.

However, the new visa agreement with the Mexican government does not allow for any paid work on top of the 14 hours per week as an assistant.

In an email to students, the organisation said: “We would like to emphasise that this decision has been taken with the welfare and safety of ELAs (English Language Assistants) as our number one priority.”

The British Council had tried to negotiate new visa terms with its Latin American partners before the September start date but was unsuccessful.

Imogen Greenwood, 23, was one of many students preparing to go to Mexico this year after finishing her degree.

She said: “I think the thing that bothered me most about the process was the question of timing.

“You have to book flights, you have to book in for the visa and get vaccines. If you’re only hearing whether you’ve got this placement in June it doesn’t really leave you that much time to get everything sorted.

“I don’t think that the British Council is a bad organisation because it works so well for so many people. It was just a bit disappointing really.”

An article in the Telegraph earlier this year revealed that half of the 2022-23 cohort had resigned due to the ‘unlivable salaries’. 

Laura Liversage, 21, went to Costa Rica for a five-week university placement and spoke about the benefits of her cultural immersion. 

She said: “It was really good. You have no choice but to speak Spanish and to listen to Spanish speaking people.

The airport screen at Adolfo Suárez Madrid-Barajas airport. Picture: Sam Creed

“Being put somewhere out of your comfort zone, it forces you to become more fluent.

“I think it’s the best way of learning a language.”

MaríaJesús García Montalvo, teacher and Head of Culture at ESPACU – an education programme in Spain – said: “Properly learning a language means visiting the country, speaking with the natives, enjoying the food and experiencing the culture.”

The British Council, which has offered alternative placements to students in Spain and expressed its desire to “relaunch the programme in Mexico in 2024-25”, did not reply to a request for comment.

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