Suggestions for 1-month independent study (anthro major) in Mexico?
Replies: 21 - Last Post: Feb 5, 2013 8:47 PM Last Post By: raquelita
Nov 2, 2012 6:57 AM
Suggestions for 1-month independent study (anthro major) in Mexico?Does anyone have ideas on a program of instruction/daily class/center for study/museum in one of the following subject areas: Folkloric / indigenous dances of Mexico; ethnobotany and natural medicine; spiritual and traditional practices i.e. curaderas?
I'm asking for a US college student who has a 5-week "intersession" after Christmas and she has to travel and study something of interest for an independent study project. She can develop her own curriculum and incorporate it into an academic paper, video, and/or 3-D project. Her interests are quite varied and she can cross fields. For example, she can incorporate natural medicines with ritual dances in a "healing ceremony".
Thus far she knows of the ethnobotany museum in Cuernavaca, but she's not sure if it has enough to warrant a month-long stay there. She's willing to move around, if necessary. She cannot afford an expensive program from a third-party agency, such as Art for Gringos in San Miguel de Allende, nor does it have to be an accredited university program. More like a 2-hour daily folkloric dance class (designed for locals, but open to anyone) offered to the by a cultural center, which would allow her ample time for self-study. Or possibly staying in a small village close to a large city (I'm thinking of something like Teotitlan del Valle, outside Oaxaca) and interviewing the weavers about their use of native plants for dyes (and maybe walking through the countryside to find the plants). .
Edited by: kimanjome
Edited by: kimanjome
Nov 2, 2012 7:21 AM
1Well, as a cranky academic, I can throw in my two cents. Have this student find a subject or topic she is really interested in, a question she wants to pursue, and then find the location where that question can best be answered. Right now it seems like she is doing the opposite: finding a place and then hoping to find something interesting. This path tends not to be as successful as the former. Besides, there is nearly an infinite number of topics of study and locations in Mexico. I would encourage her to pick up a book or two on Mexican traditions or indigenous cultures and let her start to see themes and make connections...see what kinds of issues are still open for debate or are lacking some basic research knowledge...and then pick the place to go based on that. It's tough...but that's how research works...
Nov 2, 2012 7:26 AM
2...independent study project....
Doesn't this mean that she should be developing the study project, based upon her interests? If you're asking does Oaxaca (or other states for that matter) provide plenty of opportunity for independent study, the answer I would give is yes. But she needs to do her literature search first to find what subjects have been investigated already, and then determine what new area she will research.
For a specific off-the-cuff suggestion, perhaps spend a month in Santos Reyes Nopala and help them make a plan for the contents of their still-unfunded community museum.
Nov 2, 2012 7:51 AM
3I need to clarify: this student is actually not an anthro major, but some of her interests and talents are in that area. Before college she was a professional dancer (paid/ethnic dance troupe for 2 years) and she has 2 years' study in the Nat Sciences/Marine Biology and Environmental Studies. She's an excellent videographer and is the president of an award-winning not-for-profit. With such a breadth of experience she's opted to be a General Studies major. Her month-long study doesn't have to be in a particular major, but rather, something she finds interesting. She's not an academic, but a more hands-on, experiential type.
That said, she has already traveled to Mexico numerous times--Chaipas, Guanajuato, D.F., Oaxaca, Mazunte, as well as Guatemala, Nicaragua, and Peru. She would really like to study what I mentioned in my first post, which is why I asked if anyone knows of a location that has enough for her to become involved in a specific subject, short-term. She's not at the point where she is supposed to be doing grad level work and getting research grants.
A good example of a former Enviro Studies student project: he constructed a vertical herb garden for his dorm suite (balcony), then he wrote a paper on the design process. Another student spent her month at a Spanish language school in Costa Rica, with 3 hours of Spanish daily with nights spent doing the salsa, etc.
Edited by: kimanjome
Nov 2, 2012 7:59 AM
4This post is confusing.
The OP starts off asking for opportunites for a U.S. college student for a "program of instruction/daily class/center for study/museum" and ends with "time for self-study" and "nor does it have to be an accredited university program."
So which is it? A structured progaram sanctioned by an educational organization, or more of a self-directed research project?
If the goal is performing more of a self-directed study in "natural medicines with ritual dances " I could suggest contacting one of the many non-profits advocating for indigenous rights throughout Mexico (Tierra Nativa comes to mind as I'm associated with it and most familiar that group). These groups can put your student on the ground and in the communities for first hand observation (if they and the communities accept you).
On the other hand, if the idea is enrollment in a more formal course of instruction, perhaps the museo nacional de antropologia in Mexico City can direct you.
Nov 2, 2012 8:42 AM
5Sorry for the confusion.
The project can be entirely self-directed. It can also be part instruction, part self-study. It can be a formal course of instruction, to achieve some kind of certification, like an intensive class at a seamanship school to obtain a certificate of completion for coastal and celestial navigation. Maybe participating in a weaving workshop that lasts for a week, in a location which may have a textile museum, thereby providing the chance for further research . It can be a 2x weekly night class in "Mexico and Latin Film" at a university as an enrichment non-credit course--I know UNAM has them, but the classes last for 7 weeks. Or, it could be going off to live alone in a log cabin for a month and feverishly working to translate a contemporary novel into a foreign language.
Regardless of where and how they choose to spend their time for study, all students at her uni will receive credit for independent study through their home institution, as long as their study is an educational process which can be documented in some form (i.e. a paper, a power-point presentation, a video, work samples, a diploma, or combination thereof.).
Nov 2, 2012 8:54 AM
Nov 2, 2012 9:42 AM
7As someone who did self-directed study and field work in Mexico as an undergrad, I have to ask this question: with all due respect, why is she not doing this legwork herself?
Most cities, large and small, have Casas de Cultura so I would advise having her choose an area of the country that she'd like to explore, do some research beforehand, and then show up with a research plan. Of course, this plan will change upon arrival, but that is part of the process.
Nov 2, 2012 11:36 AM
8She is doing some of the research, but the logistics of international study, combined with a budget constraint of $950 USD for a month to cover ALL costs (ex.airfare), will challenge even the most seasoned traveler. So she's asking her mom (me) who has a lot of experience in budget travel planning--I've got access to the KVS tool, for example--to help her brainstorm. And I have a portfolio full of business cards from all the places we've stayed and people we've met in our years of low-priced travel. Her school is of no assistance when it comes to a meager budget like ours.
Study Abroad offices at public colleges and universities are not budget travel agencies--far from it. Most students who choose to go abroad merely walk into the campus Study Abroad Office, flip through the high-priced 3rd party agency brochures, then plunk down $4K-$7K (ex.airfare) for a months' study, courtesy of mom and dad's charge card. All of the legwork is done for them. Check out the AIFS site as an example. AIFS summer program
My daughter's friend, a student at another public uni in our area, inquired of her Study Abroad office about a summer Spanish program in Mexico. She returned home with a brochure from her school suggesting a 3-week course in Oaxaca with a price tag of $3,750. Outrageous, when the girl can spend an entire summer in Oaxaca for that kind of money, if she shops around. Her mom called me and asked if I knew of any other options. You betcha!
I don't know if any of you are recent grads who have done this kind of thing, but the colleges and universities seem to assume that parents have unlimited funds. Our family does not. What we do have is the time and ability to help one another devise creative travel strategies to maximize our dollars.
One thing that is imperative: she must have a formal, fully-detailed, typed proposal--including where, when, objectives, syllabus, methodology, completion requirements, etc. in hand prior to December 1, and signed off by two different faculty members and one advisor within the (Finals!) week. Hard enough to be carrying a full courseload and working p/t, never mind dealing with the nitpicky travel "stuff".
Nov 2, 2012 1:16 PM
Nov 2, 2012 1:34 PM
Nov 2, 2012 1:39 PM
11Another one in Mexico City to check out would be the MAP, the Museum of Folk Arts. I see from their website that they accept Mexican students for their social service (a requirement for every undergraduate degree), and that they hold events and workshops. While neither of these fits in with her one-month study, if she is interested it might be worth inquiring to see if something could be worked out.
Nov 2, 2012 1:42 PM
12Thanks OP for clarifying the constraints, including budget of $950 for living and learning, that your daughter faces as she makes her plans.
As an academic who works at times with university sponsored study abroad endeavors, I recognize that such programs impose more expense than “backpacking” travelers typically experience. The extra security, convenience, structure, and hand holding that study abroad participants receive does not materialize magically. Those programs usually have high staffing and/or overhead costs
Similarly, organized learning opportunities that Mexican organizations provide to foreigners, such as language classes, dance classes, or well organized volunteer placements also impose significant costs on participants. This can be problematical for people such as your daughter who will be on tight budgets. Fortunately, individuals who are especially independent, resourceful, and self-directed can potentially make their own travel arrangements and organize their own learning experiences.
As you point out above in post #5, a variety of means can be used to document students’ learning to the satisfaction of professors back on home campuses. One other possibility would be to for a student to assiduously maintain for submission an extensive journal describing and interpreting daily experiences. Depending on the subject matter, journaling (in either English or another language) might either fully document learning, or perhaps supplement simultaneous submission of an additional product, such as a video, or web display.
So, if your daughter is already a resilient independent traveler, possesses substantial Spanish skills, and also is able to organize her own study, she should be able to complete her intersession “learning project” without necessarily receiving help from either a study abroad organization or a Mexican educational establishment.
On the other hand, if your daughter’s Spanish skills are weak, or if attaining increased fluency is her principal goal, she should consider doing Spanish study for four weeks in Guatemala, not Mexico. Spanish study, combined with family homestay, can be accomplished in Guatemala for about half of its cost in Mexico. that could be readily accomplished within your proposed budget.
Nov 2, 2012 3:09 PM
13In the previous post I mentioned that Guatemalan Spanish schools can provide relatively "low cost" learning opportunities to foreign travelers or students. A different means of containing costs would be to spend most of the "independent study" month in a small town or rural community, rather than staying in cities or tourist centers.
Getting off the "guidebook trail" to small towns that are NOT near large cities can be both interesting and cheap. For example, shortly after Christmas, 2011 I spent four days in the attractive Nahua and Spanish speaking mountain town of Xochitlan, Puebla state's "Sierra Norte". My hotel room, with attached bath, cost 80 pesos (about US $6) per night. Each days worth of meals at the hotel cost me about the same amount.
My stay in Xochtlan was cheap because that town receives only very limited and intermittent (almost completely domestic) tourism. If I had stayed instead in the region's larger, better known tourist town of Cuetzalan, located about thirty miles away, my lodging costs would probably have been substantially higher.
Needless to say, no one speaks English in places like Xochitlan. There are no city attractions or entertainments. So, not all travelers or university students would necessarily feel comfortable spending much time in Xochitlan, or becoming part of the town's daily life. But, a self-directed learner/sojourner could, I think, potentially keep busy there for months engaging in ONE of these projects":
1. Learn some of the Nahua language, paying a local person to provide informal tutoring for an hour for an hour or two per day.
One could probably find someone willing to do this for much less cost, per hour, than more professional Spanish language tutoring costs in Mexico.I doubt that the typical 'daily wage' in Sierra Norte towns is more than the peso equivalent of about US $6.
The purpose of the language study would obviously not be to develop fluency in a mere month, but instead to structure one's stay in town, focusing the learning. Studying Nahua might lead to learning about indigenous healing traditions and plants.
2. Using one's Spanish skills, learn everything possible from the Web (and perhaps also from books, yes those still matter) about the history and current issues of Xochitlan, and perhaps the Puebla State's Sierra Norte generally. This is probably a very limited literature, especially for Xochitlan. Then, use one's Spanish skills to interview people in Xochitlan about past events and/or current changes taking place there. Finally, write it up as either a research paper, or a series of journal entries. (Do the writing while in Mexico; students often have difficulty finishing intersession projects later back on campus.)
3. Develop, prior to going to Mexico, knowledge about some specific phenomena found in places such as Xochitlan Propose hypotheses in advance, do the month long 'field study', and then write it up.
Here is a link to some information (and photos) from Puebla State's Sierra Norte, including Xochitlan:
Nov 2, 2012 3:37 PM
14Resources Your Daughter May Find Interesting:
Logistics of visiting Puebla's Sierra Norte, Including Xochitlan:
University student Samantha Raneri has, on a larger scale, accomplished something like your daughter is contemplating doing. She spent time in the village of Yohuachan, Puebla, near the larger mountain town Cuetzalan, learning about an indigenous women's cooperative there. Then, she produced some interesting web pages about the village and the cooperative. See:
American Visual Anthropologist Bruce (Pacho) Lane has had an extraordinary career making visually stunning ethnographic films in Mexico. His best know DVD, containing three short films made in Northern Puebla is called "The Tree of Life". See:
Linguist Timothy Knab has written a gripping and informative account of his experiences as the apprentice of two aging curanderos. It describes events that took place near Cuetzalan in the 1970s, and also much earlier. Read his fascinating "War of the Witches; A Journey into the World of the Contemporary Aztecs."
The town of Huautla, in northern Oaxaca's Sierra Mazateca, is famous as a center of indigenous healing and botanically sophisticated local knowledge. See:
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