Centre-in-Mérida, Fall 2010 and Spring 2011

The Centre-in-Mérida program is based in Mérida, a vibrant, historic, and beautiful city of one million people on Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula.  Its location near both Maya ruins and the Caribbean coast has for many years made it the ideal spot for Centre’s residential program in a Spanish-speaking environment.

Housing in Mérida
In Mérida, students live with carefully selected Mexican families in middleclass or upper middleclass neighborhoods.  Each home-stay is hand picked by our onsite coordinator and is matched according to the needs and preferences of students selected for the program.  Students will have access to modern bathroom and kitchen facilities and will 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 home-stay family as a second family.

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 part of Mexico.  Centre-in-Mérida 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 asks a student who wishes to travel overnight alone—without at least one other student—to have a parent e-mail the director permission.)

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 Merida; those without any Spanish 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, partly because of the home-stay arrangement.

Fall 2010: Dates, Director, and Courses
The fall 2010 program begins on Thursday, September 9th and concludes on Sunday, December 5th.  The director will meet you at the Merida airport whenever you arrive on September 9th, and will arrange for your transportation back to the airport to make your December 5th return flight.  There will be a four-day fall break—perhaps the best time for visitors or travel—from October 14th-17th, which coincides with Centre’s fall break.

Prof. Rick Axtell, Associate Professor of Religion, who has directed semester programs in Mérida and London, and has led Centre students studying in Cuba and Nicaragua, will direct the fall program.  Prof. Axtell has traveled to Latin America 22 times (in Colombia, Cuba, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, and Nicaragua) and knows the region well.  Latin America has been the focus of his theological studies on issues related to human rights, development, and violence.

The required fall course, taught by Prof. Axtell, will be Civil Society and Sustainable Development.  This can be taken as an Environmental Science, International Studies, or Religion upper-class course.  Students will study alternative theories of social and economic development in the Mexican context in light of religious ethical writings on poverty and development.   Briefings with officials, interviews with religious and social activists, and visits to rural and urban civil society groups engaged in creative community development alternatives provide concrete case studies for understanding the interrelationship between social, political, economic, environmental, religious and ethical aspects of a country’s development process.  This course includes travel in Chiapas and/or Oaxaca and a home stay in an indigenous rural village.

All students also take a Spanish course at the appropriate level; Spanish majors may be able to take a course in both language and literature. 
SPA 110 (Fundamentals) (This beginning Spanish course is not offered in the spring)
SPA 210/220 (Intermediate)
SPA 240 (Advanced Conversation)
SPA 270 (Spanish American Culture)
SPA 355 (Literatura Mexicana y Yucateca)

In addition, students select two of the following three courses:

ANT 451, Ancient Maya Culture, taught by Prof. James Callaghan.  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. 

ARH 288/488 An Identity Forged With Art: A Brief Journey Through Mexican Art History
This course is an introduction to the art of Mexico. Our goal is to explore the painting, sculpture, architecture and artifacts of Mexican civilization from its earliest beginnings in antiquity through the vital and diversified nature of its contemporary art. The course will be conducted by lectures, slide and power point presentations, and also with field trips to museums and exhibitions. Prerequisite: none for 288; ARH 260 or 261 for 488.

REL 327, The Church and Social Change in Latin America, taught by Prof. Axtell. 
An examination of the role of religion in Latin American society with special emphasis on a particular country (or countries) on site (Nicaragua, Cuba, Mexico). Students study religion from historical, sociological, and anthropological perspectives, examining pre-Columbian Mesoamerican religions, the mission of colonizers, syncretistic responses to conquest and evangelization, the relationship between church and state, the challenge of liberation theology, and the rise of Protestantism.

Spring 2011: Dates, Director, and Courses
The spring 2011 program begins on Thursday, February 10th and concludes on Sunday, May 1st.  The director will meet you at the Merida airport whenever you arrive on February 10th, and will arrange for your transportation back to the airport to make your May 1st return flight.  The four-day spring break—perhaps the best time for visitors and travel--will be during the last part of Centre’s spring break; it will be from March 24th - March 27th.

Prof. Núria Sabaté, professor of Spanish, will direct the spring program. Prof. Sabaté has lived and worked  in different countries in Europe, Africa and Latin America.  Her research focuses on the study of Latin American literatures from a comparative and transatlantic aproach.

All students take one of the four Spanish courses offered.  Students selected for the spring term who have not studied Spanish must take Spanish 110 in Danville for a grade during the fall term; beginning Spanish will not be offered in Mérida in the spring.  The four courses offered in the spring are:

SPA 210/220 (Intermediate)
SPA 240 (Advanced Conversation)
SPA 270 (Spanish American Culture)
SPA 360  (Latin American 20th Century Literature).  This course traces the history and development of Latin American thought through its art, architecture and literature so that students develop a more nuanced and accurate understanding of the continent’s recent past and present.  The students will study the most important Latin American literary movements in combination with visits to relevant local sites. 

In addition, students take the upper-level Humanities course, The Mayas Today, taught by Prof. Sabaté, a general introduction to Mérida, Mexico, and studying abroad.  As part of this common course, students will develop individual projects related to their major interests: international studies, history, government, sociology, education, languages, music, art, etc.  They will then collaborate in some way with a person or group within the Mayan community during the term.

Students also select two of the following three courses:

  1. Anthropology 451: Ancient Maya Culture.  (See description above.)

  2. ENS 251 Human Ecology in the Yucatan
    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. We will see how technology and the services of natural ecosystems collaborate to provide these services in the Yucatan and compare them to strategies used elsewhere.

  3.  ARH 288/488 (See description above)

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.

Caveat: Lack of Counseling Support Abroad
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 Merida or Strasbourg 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.

The comprehensive fee (for tuition & fees, room, and board) is the same as for study in Danville, except that 1) there is a $350 surcharge to help defray the $1,500 costs of the excursions that Centre pays for, and 2) students pay for their own airfare to and from Mérida, which currently costs $400-$500.  All financial aid arrangements in Danville continue in Mexico.  Students with remaining loan eligibility are eligible to borrow additional money for these additional educational expenses.  Also, remember that you may be able to save some money by canceling your automobile insurance while away.

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 as well as a passport sticker.  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 lisa.nesmith@centre.edu.

Book Air Tickets Early to Save Money
Students in the past have generally been able to find round-trip air tickets for $400-$500.  Some have found www.studentuniverse.com or www.statravel.com helpful sites.  Book early for the lowest prices.  

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.

Spending Money           
Past Centre-in-Mérida students have suggested bringing about $1,000-$1,500 to spend on some lunches, souvenirs, phone cards, Xeroxed readings for your 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.     

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. 

If you do not currently have a passport that will remain valid for at least one month after your return, you should 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 6-8 weeks.  Do it now! 

How to Apply
Application forms and faculty recommendation forms can be printed off using the link accessed on the study abroad page on Centre’s website. You should give the recommendation forms to your faculty recommenders early in January.  Turn in your completed application at the Study-Abroad office no later than 4:00 on Monday, February 8th.  You may not email your application in.  The sub-group of the International Programs Committee that makes the selections retains the right not to select students who have had run-ins with the Student Life Office.  You will be notified of your status by email on Monday, February 25th, after the list is vetted by both the Associate Dean and the Dean of Student Affairs. 

Trip Deposit Due at Cashier’s Office in Boles Hall by Monday, March 8th
In order to hold your slot if you are selected, you must pay the non-refundable $350 deposit/surcharge to Judy Bowell at the Cashier’s Office in Boles Hall by noon on Monday, March 8th..  If you later decide to withdraw from Centre-in-Mérida, this non-refundable $350 deposit/surcharge is, as its name implies, not refundable. 

Merida Application Form

Faculty Recommendation Form

For more information on Centre's Study Abroad Program, contact Milton Reigelman or Lisa Nesmith.


"Seems like I've already lived here my entire life, but this is only our third week! Living with the family is great; mine is a full house, with lots of activities going on. Let's see, I have a 27-year old brother, 25-year old twin brothers, one of whom is married and his wife and three month old daughter live with us as well, and a 23-year old sister, plus me. The homestay aspect of the Mexico program is an integral part of our stay here. Not only does it provide a window into the private lives of Mexicans, but it also provides 24-hour, native-speaking language assistance, as well as someone to go do non-touristy things with, like going grocery shopping with my mom and the baby."
—Hannah Yetter '03