Centre-in-the-Yucatan

Fall 2014 and Spring 2015


Mexico A church in Chiapas, Mexico, which Centre-in-the-Yucatan
students often visit. Photo by Camille Baylis

Mexico Centre-in-the-Yucatan 2011 students at Café Chocolate, a
favorite spot near "Casa Centre."

Mexico Centre-in-the-Yucatan 2012. Photo by Cheyenne Evans

Mexico Centre-in-the-Yucatan 2011

Location. The Centre-in-the-Yucatan program is based in Mérida, Mexico, a vibrant, historic, and beautiful city of one million people on Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula. Its location near both Mayan ruins and the Caribbean coast has for many years made it the ideal spot for Centre’s residential program in a Spanish-speaking environment. Merida was named a "City of Peace" by the United Nations in January 2011.

Four things make this Centre abroad program unique:

1. Each student, as part of the required course, works at a site relevant to the student's personal and professional interests, such as museums, schools, medical facilities, social organizations, the city government, or a business, etc. This means that the students' learning and development are achieved through a personally determined experience and involvement in sites where they are immersed in local culture and where their language skills can improve dramatically.

2. All students are placed in homestays in upper-middle class families that have hosted Centre students for many years. Each homestay is handpicked by our on-site coordinator and matches the needs and preferences of students selected for the program. Students have access to modern bathroom and kitchen facilities and generally have their own bedroom. Merida students universally regard this comfortable living arrangement as one of the things that make this program uniquely attractive. Their spoken language improves dramatically, and they come to regard their homestay family as a second family. Out of respect for the homestay families, students have a 2:00 a.m. curfew.

3. The Centre-planned and paid-for excursions around the Yucatan peninsula and to another area of Latin America are highlights of the program. Recent programs have spent a week in Cuba, an experience that few Americans have been fortunate enough to have.

4. The American dollar goes much further in Merida than it does in the U.S. Because the airfare to Merida is much less than it is to other Centre sites, and because Centre spends about $1500 per student on Centre excursions, students have found this program to be a great value.

Eligibility. Although this is not a program designed primarily for Spanish majors (or even students who have taken Spanish), the selection committee often gives some preference to students who have studied Spanish. Students without any Spanish who are accepted for the fall program take Spanish 110 in Mérida; those without any Spanish who are accepted for the spring program must take Spanish 110 in Danville for a grade during the fall term; failure to do so will result in being dropped from the spring program. All students find that their spoken Spanish improves dramatically during the time in Mérida because of the homestay arrangement.

Housing. In Mérida, students live with carefully selected Mexican families in middle class or upper middle class neighborhoods. Each homestay is handpicked by our on-site coordinator and is matched according to the needs and preferences of students selected for the program. Students have access to modern bathroom and kitchen facilities and generally have their own bedroom. This arrangement has proven to be a highlight for Centre students in Mérida during the past few years. You will come to regard your homestay family as a second family. (To see what a past Centre-in-the-Yucatan student says about the homestay experience, click here.)

Program Dates for Fall 2014. The fall 2014 program begins Saturday, September 6, and concludes 13 weeks later on Monday, December 6. The director will meet you at the Mérida airport when you arrive on September 6 and will arrange for your transportation back to the airport to make your December 6 return flight. The best time for visitors will be determined by the director. If you arrive early or stay late, you are responsible for finding and paying for a place to stay. The director or coordinator will be happy to provide advice on where to stay. You should not ask your homestay families to stay with them after the program officially ends.

Program Dates for Spring 2014. The spring 2015 program begins on Saturday, February 7, and concludes on Saturday, May 9. The director will meet you at the Mérida airport when you arrive on February 7 and will arrange for your transportation back to the airport to make your May 9 return flight. The best time for visitors will be determined by the director. If you arrive early or stay late, you are responsible for finding and paying for a place to stay. The director or coordinator will be happy to provide advice on where to stay. You should not ask your homestay families to stay with them after the program officially ends.

Director. Both fall and spring semesters will be directed by Professor Marie Petkus, assistant professor of economics. Prof. Petkus will be accompanied by her two sons and husband, Michael, a Spanish teacher who will teach in the Merida Spanish program.

Courses. The course all students will take, taught by Prof. Petkus, is Merida's Economy: Past, Present, and Future (a 200- or 400-level Econ course). Merida is the cultural and financial capital of the Yucatan state. In this course, students will be introduced to Merida's political, cultural, and economic history in order to understand the present state of Merida's economy. Students will compare and contrast the economies of Merida and Mexico and analyze their economic and development challenges. As part of the course, students will experience Merida's economy first-hand by completing a service-learning project. Each student will be matched with an organization based on mutual interest and complete a semester-long project in which they make a significant contribution towards an economic analysis for the organization. (Contributions will vary based on the economic background of the student and data and resources available at the site.)

All students also take a Spanish course at the appropriate level. Spanish majors may take a course in both language and literature:

Spanish 110 (Fundamentals) (offered in fall only; spring students who have not had Spanish must take Spanish 110 for a grade in the fall at Centre)

Spanish 210/220 (Intermediate)

Spanish 240 (Advanced Spanish Conversation)

Spanish 270 (Spanish American Culture)

Spanish 360 (20th-Century Latin American Literature)

In addition, students select two of the following courses:

1. Ancient Maya Culture (ANT 451). Students will learn the principles and processes behind the development of universal high culture, using the example of the ancient Maya. The course traces the cultural development of the Maya prior to the conquest by Europeans in the 16th century. Taught by Prof. Fernanda Suarez.

2. Human Ecology in the Yucatan (ENS 251). What do humans need to live in a sustainable manner for generations to come? How do the actions of the human species limit this potential? This course will focus on the sustained needs for human population: food and fiber, shelter, water, and waste disposal. Students will consider how technology and the services of natural ecosystems collaborate to provide these services in the Yucatan and compare them to strategies used elsewhere. Taught by Prof. Eduardo Galicia.

3. Trade and the Environment: NAFTA and Mexico (a 200- or 400-level Econ course). This course will examine the impact of international trade on the environment, using the North American Free Trade Agreement and Mexico as our case study. Students will gain a deeper understanding of the benefits and costs of international trade and the potential for environmental degradation as a result of increased production. We will analyze how environmental regulation can reduce pollution, impact firms, markets, and competition, and subsequent international trade patterns. This course has no economics prerequisites. For students with an economics background, more formal economic analysis and models will be expected, extra responsibility will be assigned for class discussions, and corresponding grading standards will apply. Taught by Prof. Petkus.

4. An additional SPA course.

Program Excursions. Centre spends about $1,500 per student on special opportunities for students in the Yucatan and in Mexico, including two short excursions. The first excursion typically occurs near the beginning of the program and introduces students to the Yucatan peninsula and its coastal regions. The second excursion typically occurs later in the program and introduces students to another area. Centre-in-the-Yucatan students often travel on their own in small groups after letting the director know where they will be and who they will be traveling with. Centre requires any student who wishes to travel overnight alone—without at least one other student—to have a parent e-mail the director giving permission.

Cost. The comprehensive fee (for tuition & fees, room, and board) is the same as for study in Danville, except that (1) there is a $375 non-refundable deposit/surcharge due by Tuesday, March 4, to help defray the $1,500 cost of the excursions that Centre pays for, and (2) students pay for their own airfare to and from Mérida, which currently costs $350-$700. Fifteen dollars of the deposit/surcharge will go into the Centre carbon mitigation fund; there will also be a $20 fee for the Travel Clinic, which all students studying abroad must attend. All financial aid arrangements in Danville continue in Mexico. Students with remaining loan eligibility are eligible to borrow additional money for educational expenses. Also, remember that you may be able to save some money by canceling your automobile insurance while away.

Apply. Application and faculty recommendation forms may be picked up at one of the campus-wide informational meetings on November 19, November 25, or January 8—or on the bookshelf in the Davidson Room of Old Carnegie. Turn in your completed application at the study abroad office no later than noon on February 6. Students who are selected must pay the non-refundable $375 deposit/surcharge to the Cashier's Office in Boles Hall by March 4 to hold their spot in the program.

A Note on Semester-long Centre Programs. Students may only study abroad on a semester-long Centre program once, though they may participate in as many CentreTerm and/or summer programs as they wish.

Statement about Grades Abroad. The grades that Centre students studying abroad have received in the past have been consistent with, or even a bit higher than, grades received on campus. Nevertheless, we want to make certain that you understand from the outset that the courses you take abroad will not necessarily be taught or evaluated as they would be at Centre. In the past, some abroad students have complained—after the fact—that it was unclear how their work was being evaluated, that they received little or no feedback of their progress from the professors, that they were unfairly competing with more advanced students, that they didn't receive their grades until months after they returned, etc. We will, of course, do what we can to advise you on courses you take, but finally you are responsible for those choices, and you must live with the results. The faculty committee on curriculum and academic standards will almost certainly not agree to change an abroad grade because you believe it is too low.

Medical Insurance. Students studying abroad through any Centre program receive travel and accident insurance at no additional cost. Centre's Study Abroad Insurance, while provided through EIIA (Educational & Institutional Insurance Administrators), is administered through AIG Assist. Every student studying abroad with Centre College receives an AIG Assist contact and information card. Each has the Centre insurance policy number, which is the only information needed to receive services. The categories of coverage provided are accident and sickness ($100,000 limit with a $250 deductible); emergency medical evacuation and emergency family travel ($100,000 limit); accidental death and disability ($200,000 limit); and repatriation of remains ($100,000 limit). For specific questions, please contact the International Programs office at 859.238.5285 or leigh.cocanougher@centre.edu.

Book Air Tickets Early to Save Money. Students in the past have generally been able to find economical round-trip air tickets. Some have found studentuniverse.com, statravel.com, cheapflights.com, or hipmunk.com helpful sites. Book early for the lowest prices.

Pre-Departure Training. Selected students will attend three required pre-departure meetings this spring and/or next fall. These meetings will prepare you for living and studying in another culture and give you a head start on your common course. Students selected will continue to prepare through individual reading over the summer. Students must also attend the mandatory Travel Clinic, held on Centre's campus.

Psychotropic Medication and Counseling. The kind of counseling and support services available on campus are not available abroad. Because any significant life transition can exacerbate and complicate already existing mental health issues, students who are currently on psychotropic medication and/or have been in mental health counseling are encouraged to consider participating in the three-week Early Summer Strasbourg program or one of the CentreTerm programs abroad. In addition, those students are urged to meet with a Centre Student Assistance Program counselor prior to their leaving, to develop a support plan for their time abroad.

Spending money. Past Centre-in-Yucatan students have suggested bringing about $1,000-$1,500 to spend on some lunches, souvenirs, phone cards, photocopied readings for classes, Internet cafes, occasional restaurant meals, and personal travel. You will receive a small allowance sufficient for bus fares during school days. Your home-stay families will provide you with at least two meals each day. On group excursions, two meals a day are also generally covered by Centre.

Internet, Laptops, and Cyber Cafes. Computers and internet connections are less available in Centre’s study-abroad programs than they are in Danville. Indeed, if you expect to spend huge amounts of time Facebooking and Skyping, you should reconsider applying, since the point of this program is to immerse yourself in a different culture. Students in Mérida do have access to computers with internet connections in the classroom building, and may also, for a small expense, use cyber cafes throughout the city. Wireless access to the internet may also be available at the classroom facility. Although you may turn in all work hand-written, if you own a laptop, you should definitely bring it.

Grades/Independent Studies. Mid-term warning grades of D or U are issued after the sixth week of the term, just as in Danville. All Mexico courses count in the GPA, just as in Danville. The Pass-Unsatisfactory option is not available in any Centre study abroad program. Only students whose schedules require that they take a particular course not offered in Mérida in order to graduate on time have the possibility of arranging an independent study with a Centre professor in Danville.

Pre-Registration/Convocation Credits. While in Mérida, you pre-register for future courses via e-mail with your regular academic advisor. You will automatically be credited with six convocation credits during your term abroad.

Passport. If you do not currently have a passport that will remain valid for at least six months after your return, begin the process of obtaining one as soon as you are selected. In the recent past, some students have waited three months to receive a passport, even though the passport agency has stated that it will take six to eight weeks. Do it now!


To see photos from past Centre-in-the-Yucatan experiences, click here.