Mexico Week UT: ‘We can learn from each other’

| Rense Kuipers

With a 'Mexico Week' from 21 to 23 May, those involved want to 'give colour' to the recently reinforced collaboration with partner institution Tecnológico de Monterrey. Country coordinator and initiator Karin Paardenkooper about the programme, the collaboration and what the UT and the Mexican university can learn from each other.

Archive image U-Today: The 'Bring your Flag Party' during the 2022 Kick-In.

Why this initiative?

'The collaboration between the UT and Tecnológico de Monterrey – Tec – has been going on for more than 25 years. Now that the university has recently been appointed Global Academic Partner, we want to add colour to the collaboration with this Mexico Week. We want to involve the entire UT community in this. It's not that this collaboration came out of the blue, it has grown from the bottom up for decades.'

On what scale is there collaboration with this university?

'There are many tangible partnerships in the fields of research, education and knowledge valorisation. In terms of research, dozens of UT staff are involved, for example from the departments of professors Han Gardeniers, Herman Offerhaus and Armagan Kocer and the BMS Lab. A delegation from Novel-T also recently visited Mexico and came back with numerous ideas. In addition, there has been an exchange agreement for bachelor's students with Tec de Monterrey for many years; Thirty students come here from Mexico every year and thirty UT students go to Mexico.'

What's on the program during Mexico Week?

'The first day is mainly fun and flavourful, with a Mexico Fair. We have workshops such as Make your own guacamole and crafting Ojos de Dios and Papel de Picado. There will also be games and authentic Mexican food that day. The second and third day the program is more substantive; This includes research collaboration and career opportunities. Students who have already been on exchange also share their experiences and we offer a podium for the UT Language Centre. It is also important to share the message that it is good for international students to learn Dutch early during their studies, rather than at the end. That message has been somewhat snowed under in recent years. There will also be a movie night with the animated film Coco on the program. And we're ending Mexico Week with a party at Rico Latino's.’

Are there certain misconceptions about the country of Mexico or the university?

'I hear them sometimes, but that's logical. About poverty, crime or that it has a South American appearance. As I recently heard in the TV programme Metropolis: "Everyone thinks they are the centre of the world". The country is located in North America and has more similarities with the southern states of the US than with a country like Guatemala, for example. The university itself is huge, spread over 27 cities it has almost 100 thousand students. I hear from everyone who has been there that they were amazed by how advanced and modern it is.

Moreover, if you look at the rankings, Tec is higher than the UT on the QS ranking. It is also a private university, which ensures that if the board takes a certain turn, it is quickly heeded. Even though the UT and Tec cannot be compared in scale, they are comparable in characteristics: young, innovative and entrepreneurial. It is no coincidence that Tec was one of the founding fathers of the ECIU consortium.'

What can both universities learn from each other?

'At the moment, we have many more advanced and well-stocked laboratories at the UT. In terms of infrastructure, we have a lot to offer, for which the Mexicans come to the UT specifically to be inspired. For example, they do something with optics, but don't have their own Optical Sciences department like here.

The UT could learn from Tec in the field of educational innovation. Lately, there has been a lot of talk about challenge-based learning at the UT, but Tecnológico de Monterrey has already fully implemented this in all bachelor's programmes in all 27 cities for five years. So we can learn from each other, which is one of the reasons why we are now working on a cooperation plan for the next three years.'

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