Anthropology department to host trip to Mérida, Mexico, encouraging students to apply.

Looking for a sense of adventure? Interested in various cultures? Want to experience the trip of a lifetime while earning course credits?

The Anthropology department at UAA is offering a group of students the chance to travel to Mérida, Mexico and discover the vast civilization of the ancient Mayans, as well as explore the current Mexican culture thriving in the city.

Mérida is the capital of the Mexican state of Yucatán, located in Yucatán Peninsula and has over a million residents making it rich in diversity.

Dr. Christine Hanson, Chair of the Anthropology Department, and Doni Williams, International Student Advisor, are in charge of organizing the trip.

“The trip will take place from approximately December 27, 2010 through January 8, 2011 with five evening class meetings prior to the trip in November and December,” said Williams.

The classes leading up to the trip are to help students become aware of where they are going and what they will be studying while there.

Dr. Hanson has been to Mérida, several times, mainly to give presentations on anthropology, such as the “Setting it Straight in the Andes: The Therapeutic Role of the Componedor” presented at the Society for Applied Anthropology back in 2001. Williams has also had experience in Mérida as an undergraduate in the mid 90’s. The location has so many rewarding aspects, that it is a great place to take anthropology students, and those interested in another culture.

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Even though the subject of the trip pertains to anthropology majors, and those with anthropology classes under their belts will be given preference, Dr. Hanson is encouraging all students to apply. A student simply has to be eligible to take either ANTH 297 or ANTH 397 Independent Study on Ancient and Modern Mexico. That student will earn one to three elective credits for the completion of the chosen course.

“Merida offers an amazing experience for students on study abroad because although the culture is very different from the United States, students can rest assured that it is a very safe city with excellent services, including outstanding medical care and even special ‘tourist police’ who are charged with helping tourists in various areas around the city,” Williams said.  “Additionally, the people of Merida are very friendly and welcoming to Americans, and the various Mayan sites and other excursion areas we visit are well organized.”

Although the trip might seem like an inviting vacation in a warm and sunny atmosphere, it is still a college course, which means it will be graded. While exploring the sights, students are required to observe and understand what the culture around them is all about, and then write a final paper on their 12-day experience.

What will students learn while there? According to Williams, “We hope that (students will) gain perspective – that they find out what it is like to be a stranger in a strange land, so that they may become more compassionate to strangers in their own backyards.  Also, there are many valuable lessons to be learned from the ancient and modern Maya people, whose lives and traditions are in some ways similar to those of Alaska Natives.”

The cost for the trip is $2,700, and while the price might be a little steep, it is one of those once in a lifetime experiences that students won’t want to miss. The price includes the essentials needed to survive in a foreign country, such as health insurance, meals, places to stay, and guides. In addition to the $2,700, students must pay for the course and required texts, have an up-to-date passport, and bring any souvenir money that they wish to spend.

For any student who is worried about the safety of travelling to Mexico, especially due to recent events, Williams wants to assure them that there won’t be any problems.

“It couldn’t be a safer or more comfortable experience, because they are accompanied by UAA staff and faculty and local guides during all group excursions, live with very experienced host families, and are oriented to the area for their free time on the first morning with a city center tour.”

Applications are available from Dr. Hanson at [email protected] or Doni Williams, in person or at [email protected] There will be an interview process after the submission of the required documents to determine who is best qualified for the trip. Along with the interview and 11-page application, a student needs a letter of recommendation from a professor and one typed page of what their personal goals are and why they should be chosen for the trip. Students will be notified a week after the interview if they are eligible to go.

If any student is interested and wants to participate in the venture, the deadline for applications has been extended to Friday October 22. Space is limited.