Multiculture, Profiles

Joel Hernández: From one big city to another

Age 29 and with a stable job at the Ministry of Finance and Public Credit in Mexico, Joel Hernández decided to leave home and expand on his skills by studying a postgraduate degree in London.


Joel Hernández 2Around 298,000 students from outside the EU were enrolled in British educational institutions during the 2010-11 academic year, according to official figures.

A large number of these were Latin American students deciding to take the leap across the Atlantic and come to the United Kingdom to perfect their English, gain formal qualifications and hopefully improve their employment opportunities thanks to international training.

One of these students was Joel Hernández, from Mexico. He always knew he wanted to study in the United Kingdom at postgraduate level, so making the decision to leave his country wasn’t a difficult one. “The first thing you need is a clear objective in mind. As soon as I’d set the UK as my target, my mind was already made up.”

Joel Hernández 6He worked for the Ministry of Finance and Public Credit in Mexico, but at 29-years-old he felt the need for change in his life. So he came to London to complete a Masters degree in financial risk and statistics at the London School of Economics.

Joel declares that after a few months in the city it wasn’t too difficult to adapt. “I’m from Mexico City – also very big, and I have studied English since I was a kid, so the language wasn’t too much of a challenge while settling either.”

Nevertheless, he is still unaccustomed to the city’s weather, which is so very different from Mexico City. “It’s the hardest part for me, that and the fact that everything is so expensive”. He admits that at the beginning, the cost of transport and university fees made his life hard.

Joel Hernández 3Despite seeing himself as accepted by the British community, Joel still feels like an immigrant – even with the surprising amount of his fellow country-men he comes across in London. “It’s quite normal for me to recognise Mexicans in the street” and he has even got to know a few, especially in his University circles and through friends of friends.

Joel thinks the Latin American community feels integrated in London, and recounts a telling story from his first few weeks in England: “A pleasant surprise for me was seeing how much people smiled when I said I was Mexican. It seems Mexicans are held dear in London and that’s very gratifying.”

México resistencia indigena6“Getting to know Londoners has been a very enjoyable experience. They are very open and welcoming.” By the same token he does not think that the local community harbours racist sentiments. “At least, not in London.”

In the short-term, he plans to finish his Masters, work to save so that he can take advantage of Europe and travel the continent and get to know more countries.

He also confesses that although his university hasn’t quite met his expectations (“they were a little higher”), living in London, a “diverse and vibrant city”, has indeed lived up to them.

Through it all, he missed his family, his friends and the climate of his South American home.

For these reasons, he already has his return date in mind, September this year.


(Translated by Tara Balfour – Email:

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