Georgetown could learn a lot about how to run a top-tier, internationally-respected university from one of its leading counterparts in Mexico, El Instituto Tecnologico de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey (more commonly known as “El Tec”). Many Americans hold a highly skeptical and disdaining attitude for anything Mexican – it’s time to adjust your superiority complex and realize that at the very least this exican university does some things a lot better than our beloved Georgetown.

El Tec’s reputation as arguably the best university in the Spanish-speaking world for engineering and business was what swayed my decision to study here for the fall. I expected a modern, North American educational system, but wasn’t prepared to discover a student-oriented campus community that supercedes that of Georgetown in almost every dimension.

The administrations of both universities like to talk about putting students first – El Tec puts its money where its mouth is, while Georgetown fumbles to understand the interests and expectations of the modern undergraduate. The campus community here in Monterrey is strong, united, proud and supported by the administration. Student course evaluations even affect the financial compensation of professors.

El Tec’s quality of education is certainly high, but falls short of the levels I have come to expect on the Hilltop. Students are less trusted to complete their reading and research assignments, and homework is less thoughtful and often borders on the “busy work” that haunted my high school days. Cheating and plagiarism are problems I had assumed students had long since given up by the time they reached upper-tier universities, but still runs rampant in some classes here.

Where El Tec bests Georgetown is in the student environment. Students are actually the focus here, and the huge variety of activities planned by the administration and carried out by active students on campus are truly impressive. The two most substantial events of this fall semester have no comparison to Georgetown.

The week-long 60th anniversary celebration included a series of conferences led by internationally recognized scholars and concluded in a free student cultural festival in which nearly 1,000 students participated, half-filled the 32,000-seat university stadium and featured a fireworks finale that rivaled Washington’s 4th of July celebration this year.

ExpoTec, a four day cultural festival, predominantly featured student-designed stands representing each of the 32 Mexican states and several of the countries from which a large number of Tec students originated, food vendors representing each of these regions and free concerts. The event dominated campus activity throughout its duration and concluded in a Friday night extravaganza that found the majority of the 16,000 undergraduate students in attendance. Georgetown Day features more inflatable games, free food and a more pleasant Copley and Healy Lawn setting, but hardly captures the student imagination or attention for nearly as long as ExpoTec did.

Annual student academic conferences and national conventions have occurred throughout the semester. Students from around Mexico attend and assist in organizing the events that typically include one to three days packed with guest lecturers and conclude with parties at local nightclubs. Students bond and collaborate with others in their field of study to a degree not seen on the Hilltop.

“Cultural Diffusion” arts, dance and theater classes are offered at subsidized prices each semester and perform an exhibition that attracts enough parents and friends to fill the 3,000 seat campus theater/auditorium for two nights. Professionally directed student theatre, musical and cultural performances change every weekend and cheap, $3 tickets are available to undergraduates. A mariachi band marches through campus followed by a hoard of cheering fans the day of every sporting event to get students excited about attending.

The student-focused culture goes beyond fun events and cultural activities. The campus enjoys the glorious weather of northern exico and its design complements relaxed campus interaction in all corners. Benches and tables are distributed in every part of the campus and are accompanied with Internet and power hookups to allow students to work outside in teams or with friends beneath the shade of the numerous trees. All things considered, being on campus feels more like relaxing in a park than being at school.

Georgetown needs to learn to truly cater to its student population while maintaining the high quality of its professors and course offerings or it will face losing the reputation for overall excellence that it has worked so hard to build since 1789.

Mitch Fox is a junior in the McDonough School of Business and is currently studying abroad for the fall semester in Monterrey, exico at the Instituto Tecnologico de Estudios Superiores de onterrey.

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