Welcome to the Mexico MTC (el CCM)
Before I left on my mission, I was so nervous about what to expect going to another country to prepare for my mission. I tried looking everywhere for good information about the Mexico MTC and I couldn’t find a good list! Now obviously I turned out fine, but to pay if forward for those who worry like me, I wanted to make an extensive list. For those who have returned from their missions or went through the Mexico MTC (or any MTC) feel free to comment below with tips & knowledge that would be beneficial to know.
Tips & Information about what to expect in the Mexico MTC
Advice for Before You Leave
I’m sure everyone is handing out useful information about what you should do before you leave. Here are some suggestions as well.
Read the Book of Mormon – if you haven’t read it all the way through or don’t feel like you received an answer, read and pray every night and He’ll give you an answer. This is the book that you will be testifying about for the next 18-24 months.
Go out with the Missionaries – It’s great practice, you get comfortable with teaching and it’s a spiritual boost because they are so close to the Spirit. It’s stressful getting ready to leave, but they were able to help me so much! Us the missionaries because they want to use you and your fresh excitement to serve!
Start Practicing Your Language – There’s an app called duolingo that turns it into a game to learn. You can watch TVShows in Spanish, especially little kid shows. There was one I watched that I think was called Pocoyo & it was so cute and helpful. Pinterest is a great tool and so is Spanish music.
Read Preach My Gospel – Nearly everyone thinks this book is just for missionaries, but it has so many good things in it! Start studying it now so you’re familiar with it when you get to the mission field. The best chapter to go to is Chapter 3 because it teaches you very simply about the 5 lessons we teach as missionaries. Coming from personal experience, I really wish I would have done that more. It doesn’t hinder you if you don’t, but it definitely speeds up the process.
Access your email and add contacts and make groups – Your email time goes so fast! You don’t want to have to make group while you could be emailing. You can log on once you have your call and add all the emails people give you and make groups so it’s easier to email those that you want to (like family, close friends, giant group email, etc.).
Practice Piano – I took lessons for 11 years and I’m not very good because I didn’t practice very much. As a missionary, I finally see it the way my parents saw it and I really wish I would have practiced because they want you play for everything! I can play some things if I’ve had time to practice, but there isn’t much time for that as a missionary, so save yourself some embarrassment and learn from my mistake!
Things to Bring
Some of these things you won’t need right away/ won’t be able to use in the MTC, so if you’re coming back to the states, your parents could just have them waiting at the mission office to cute down luggage weight. But for foreign missionaries, packages are crazy expensive so take what you can!
-Water Bottle!!! They have filtered water jugs in every classroom building, trust me, you will want to drink water!
-Flip Flops for the shower. They do have people that come to clean them, but that sort of thing just personally creeps me out, especially because you share it with 3 other people.
-That being said, it might be nice to bring a cheaper old mat/towel for the bathroom floor.
-Transfer Journal – Bring a journal specifically for people to write funny memories, their home address, and nice things about you! These are seriously an awesome idea!
-Letter writing stuff & AMERICAN stamps! – Letters take about a month to make it to your families from Mexico, but it’s still fun to write them! AND!!! American stamps work & you only need one because they send all the mail to the USA in a big package & then it gets distributed, so they pay the international fee. I really wish I would have known that!
-Little Photo Book of Family & Friends – This is so nice to have because people will ask about your family & it’s all in one place. Now that I’m in the mission field, I look at mine frequently!
-American Food – Bring snacks, there are snacks available but the things I was craving, they didn’t have (hot chocolate & popcorn)! Delicious! They do have microwaves in the comedor (dining hall).
-Piano Music – It’s a good stress reliever and there are pianos in a lot of the room at the CCM.
-Missionary Flashcards – These are available in the Provo MTC, but not in the Mexico MTC. They are way helpful, but if you want them, you should be able to find them online and order them before you leave! They are a great tool!
Other things that would be nice to have, but aren’t necessary in the CCM/MTC:
-CDs, a speaker, & an MP3 player – You can’t listen to music in the MTC, I’m not sure why, but just obey that rule. But in the mission field, you totally can. I don’t know about foreign countries, but here in the states you have cars where you can listen to CDs and MP3s! And my advice is load up on awesome inspiring music! There are so many good church groups, it doesn’t all have to be Jenny Phillips, trust me, I made that mistake with my MP3 player and I get so annoyed because none of them are pump up songs. Some good groups/people to look into are the piano guys, BYU vocal point, Jericho Road, The Nashville Tribute Band, David Osmond, the Church Youth Music for 2015 is sweet! Obviously throw a little glorious Motab & nice piano music in there and you’re set. My advice about MP3, get one with a screen so you can make playlists, like a nano or something. I brought a shuffle which is so frustrating sometimes, but as long as you don’t have access to the internet, you’re golden.
-3M Command Hooks – These are so good to hang jewelry and probably ties on! You will want these!
-Blanket – in the morning during studies, sometimes I get cold, so it’s nice to have a thin blanket and even slippers. Those are nice to have.
-Cookbooks – especially if you don’t know how to cook, have some simple recipes that you can make on nights and for lunches when you aren’t eating with members (in my mission that’s rare, but in others it’s more common).
-Speaking of dinner, brink a blank template for calendars, this will help you work better with the members for your dinner calendar and then it won’t be sloppy and handmade.
-Visuals – It’s always nice to have. I asked my mom once I got here for a Plan of Salvation and 10 commandments laminated set! They make teaching families with little kids easier! You can find so many things on Pinterest.
The Environment of the Mexico MTC
You may be thinking, “Oh no, I’ve never been out of the country, what’s it going to be like? Do I need to worry about things being sketchy or poor or dirty?” And the answer is No! You are completely safe & secure inside the guarded walls of a big old church boarding school. Inside the walls, it could almost remind you of California. Everything is green, lots of palm trees and hills and everything is very clean and nice including the houses and class rooms. The only thing that lets you know you’re in Mexico is the crazy amount of car honks you’ll hear, the Mexican fiestas, and concerts and cannons that they set off for their Saints. The atmosphere is actually really great within the walls! And, something I didn’t know until like day five is that the tap water is safe to drink because the campus has its own well or a water supply. So you won’t get sick, but they have filtered water available everywhere too.
This is what the casas (or houses) look like. Everything is very nice and taken care of.
Fasting – On a normal day, you’re fed 3 really nice meals. They have American cereals and fruit and Mexican dishes that are usually great. But on Saturday night before fast Sundays, they are closed at dinner time and don’t reopen until Sunday night at dinner. I didn’t know this and because I’m so tiny, I can’t fast that long without getting sick. Thankfully my district had lots of food and I started my fast in the morning. But just prepare yourself for this if you’re like me!
Temple – You will exit the walls of the MTC only once excluding when you get to Mexico and when you leave. Outside the walls it’s a different world so take many pictures of the colorful culture that Mexico has to offer!
Thing They Give You
I wish I would have known exactly what they give you because I could have saved others the trouble of buying me gifts.
-Language Books – These are the best thing they give you! I still study these today, especially the green and white one!
-Preach my Gospel - They give you the full size versions of both Spanish & English!
-MTC Experience – You’ll get this crash course book about what’s going to happen.
Items available at the store (la tienda)
These are things you could get as gifts, but you don’t need to because you can buy them with your “free” money weekly allowance card in the store. They have all kinds of good stuff, Church materials, cards, tie clips, shoes and garments. You’re covered!
-The Missionary Library (Jesus the Christ, Our Heritage, The Search for Happiness, & True to the Faith) So Good!
-CCM Shirts – buy 1, buy 2, they are great for gifts to the family. I got them for my mom and sister and just had to mail them at Christmas when I was in the States.
-Hangers – You don’t need to bring hangers. Sometimes you can find them in your closet, other times you need to buy them, but they’re totally available (just don’t take them with you – you won’t have space and your apartment will have extra and if not, you can buy some at the dollar store on P-day). --Mexican Stamps – if you forgot to buy stamps, you can get them at the Store!
-Toiletries – They have all the American toiletries you could need.
-American & Spanish candy & snacks (try the drink Mansana del sol! So good!)
Things available at the Temple Store
This is where you will need to use your own pesos that you switched over. I think I used about 600 pesos, which was a great deal for how much I got for about 60 American Dollars. They have cards, stickers, shirts & Mexican trinkets. It’s just a small cramped store, but very fun to go in and the temple is beautiful!
-They have Mexican Shirts for 199 pesos (about $20 USD). I got two because I’ve always liked them!
-They have a large selection of Scripture Cases for both the Bible and the Book of Mormon in Spanish! I love them!
-They have really nice tie clips that I got for my dad and brother.
-They have awesome, authentic backpacks, but I think they were about 1000 pesos or $100 so I didn’t get that.
I was kind of confused why I should exchange money for pesos, but do it! This is what lets you do dry cleaning and buy things at the temple and it’s kind of like “just in case money.” Do it in America while you can still understand what they are saying. There are, however, ATMs in the main office at the CCM that you can get money from and you can re-exchange your currency at the CCM too.
You won’t be flying all alone before you cross the border. You’ll be meeting up with other missionaries…so don’t freak out! You can all be lost together! Just kidding! It’s very organized and you’ll be okay! Lots of things are in English too.
As for luggage – This is the most important thing! The Mexico airport is a stickler for weight! When they told us they weigh the carry-on, I didn’t believe them because my carry-ons have never been weighed traveling in the country. And I asked my dad, who travels internationally, and he said no, so I didn’t worry about it, but they totally do! And not just your suitcase, but they weigh your purse with your suitcase and if they weigh more than 10kg (I forget the USA equivalent), then you’re sent somewhere to pay more. There are scales to weigh your luggage in the office buildings of the MTC & I packed each one to the brim at the exact maximum weight and packed my carry-on to 10kg, but because all my stuff looked really packed, they weighed it all and I had to pay a lot (I don’t remember how much) to be able to take it with me. So leave as much behind as you can & remember to pack light when you head to the MTC because you wind up with 10-15 pounds more with books & trinkets on your way out. Anything that can be sent to your mission office, should be.
For the Parents, Family, & Friends
I figure it’s good to have a section for you so you won’t worry and you’ll know what’s coming.
-When your missionary gets to the MTC, they will have about 5 minutes to email you and let you know that they made it safely, so don’t worry, you won’t have to wonder what happened to them for a week before you hear from them.
-Once there, their P-day will either be Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday and that’s when they’ll get to email you for 1 hour (I think) in the mission field it’s better because most missions allow 1 hour & 30 minutes to email.
-Don’t send letters to Mexico. My mom did like my first day there and I never got it. It’s easier (and less sketchy) for us to send home letters, but usually we never get yours. It’s even worse with package! Don’t do that!
-Instead! You can use www.dearelder.com to write us letters & we get them the next day! These were always nice to get from my mom & sister.
And there’s an MTC package site www.missionarypackageemx.com where you can order online and it’s bought and shipped in Mexico. This is way safer and we get it the same day! I got Krispy Kreme donuts, brownies, Pringles, etc. It’s a nice pick-me-up to get American food. I don’t know how expensive it is, but it’s worth it to your missionary!
Things to Send Your Missionary
Here is a list of things that are great for missionaries to receive in packages! Sometimes, family members just don’t know what to send, but as missionaries, receiving the practical stuff is the best! Hopefully this helps give you some ideas! These are like luxury items that we just don’t buy.
-Medicine (Sudafed, Clairton, cold meds –they’re expensive)
-Stamps – we always could us them
-Sticky Notes – We go through these so fast.
-Target &/or Walmart giftcards. With the funds the church gives us, we’re really only supposed to buy food, cleaning supplies, car washes & haircuts. Again, So money for extra stuff like clothes, etc. is always appreciated!
-Makeup – Again, this should come out of our own funds & so if you just asked what we were low on, that’s always nice!
-Practical items like toothpaste, facewipes and wash were something really great to get from my sister!
-Also, things from Bath and Body Works like candles and hand soaps are always nice too :) CANDLES, seriously!
-Clothes – Always appreciated! Especially skirts, they are so hard to find -Yummy homemade treats- my mom’s oatmeal and everything bars or her pumpkin/chocolate chip cookie bread!
-Expensive delicacy foods – for example, I love blue diamond smokehouse almonds, but they are so expensive!! So it was like the best thing to get some as a treat from my mom at Christmas!
-Stories from family member’s missions are always a booster and strength. It’s so fun to hear about them. Also family history is really neat to hear and learn as a missionary.
-Inspirational quotes and talks that you like.
As a general rule, probably keep candy and food things as side things and not the main thing you send because that’s basically the one thing we can buy with church funds. It’s nice to get, but sometimes it’s candy overload and we can’t eat it all (and we already feel like we’re gaining weight because we eat less healthy than normal). Think fun and practical with a side of treats. :)
I’m interest to see what’s been great for your missionary! Leave a comment below!
Random Tips & Ideas
-Take pictures of unread emails from friends/family. In the beginning of your mission, everyone and their dog want to email you and really there is just no time to read and respond to everyone. So, usually I just wrote a giant group email to everyone and then one to family and super-close friends. Then, you just take pictures of emails and you can read what your friends said throughout the week.
-Take pictures of any letters you write home. That way, if the letters get lost, you’ll always have what you said, and they can read it one day.
-If it’s hard for you to drink water or if you’re picky about the taste, bring those drops that you can put in your water. Whatever will keep you hydrated!
-Snacks are always good to have whether you bring them from home or at the store, always have something. You use a lot of brain power to understand Spanish.
-Call your mission office for any question or doubt. They tell you that you have to buy a bike, but call the mission office first, it saved me like $300 because they usually have extras sitting around!!
-Every mission will have ipads very soon, at first that annoyed me because I wanted to get away from technology, but it really will make it so much easier! You will have Mormon Messages and everything all in one place. They will actually make us more efficient & effective. So don’t feel weird, just feel excited!!!
-One fun thing we did in the MTC is had a sleepover with all the girls in our district crammed in our room. It brought unity and lots of laughs. Try it once or twice. The night before P-day is always the best time to do it because then you can take a nap on P-day!
- Make sure you have a USB cord/adapter to send pictures home. The computers do not have SD card slots.
-Take lots of pictures and make lots of fun memories and write about them all in your journal! I really hope this list helps you feel more comfortable about serving!
Please feel free to add any of your own ideas or further questions in the comment section and I will try to answer them!
Have a wonderful and successful mission!
Hermana Alayna Nelson
Nevada Las Vegas Mission