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Merida, Mexico—A Service Learner’s Paradise
10 Reasons to Visit Merida, Mexico
- La historia—The city has a rich history which includes the ancient Maya city of T’ho and the Spanish conquest
- La lacación—Merida is located in the Yucatan Peninsula, perfect for day long excursions to Maya archeological sites, henequen haciendas, cenotes, and beaches
- La gente—The friendly, welcoming, people of Merida, many of whom speak English and enjoy meeting tourists and international students
- Las programmas—Study abroad and service learning programs offer a broad range of courses and experiences for open-minded travelers and students
- La seguridad—Merida is repeatedly noted as one of the safest cities in Mexico with one of the lowest crime rates in the city of nearly 1 million
- La diversidad—Merida is a mixture of many cultures, including traditional Maya, popular American and Mexican culture, and European influences
- El Centro—Downtown Merida boasts Porfirian architecture, shopping, and beautiful plazas which are filled with music and venders on Saturday evenings, located near several conquest era cathedrals
- El Paseo Montejo—Merida’s most famous street, named after the conquistador who conquered Merida, which cuts through some of the most beautiful parts of the city and ends in El Centro, lined with palm trees and segmented by structures reflecting the city’s rich history
- Las cosas culturales—A variety of museums, art exhibits, and cultural activities including music and dance, theatres, and shopping. Also, enjoy lounging in a hammock after lunch during afternoon siesta, when the city quiets for a quick slumber
- La comida—Inexpensive, authentic food. Don’t miss out on favorites such as tacos al pastor, panuchos ,sabutes, guacamole, and the delicious panderias- bread stores which sell a variety of breads, pastries, and cakes
Need more? Merida is beautiful, clean, and it would take honest effort to encounter boredom!
Notable Study Abroad Program in Merida
Central College (Pella, IA), which established its program in 1968, offers academic credit for a variety of courses, many of which are taught by native Spanish speakers from Merida. The program also includes several internship and service learning opportunities. Students are able to choose between residences at Casa Central, a remodeled former governor’s mansion, or experience a home-stay with a local family. Students, as part of the program cost, are able to experience cultural events and excursions, such as trips to archeological sites, towns which still project traditional Maya customs, and a trip to the southern Mexican state of Chiapas.
Speak Spanish fluently? Take courses at the following affiliated Universities: Modelo University, Marista University, Autonmous University of the Yucatan
Courses at Casa Central include Spanish grammar and usage, culture, art, Latin American literature, and a variety of other concentrations taught by visiting faculty members of Central College
Notable Service Learning Program in Merida
Academia Municipal de Inglés— a.k.a. the English Academy is one of the strongest service learning sites American colleges have in Merida, including Central College which provides service learners every semester. The English Academy is a night school for Mexican students looking to further their education through learning English. It is a great opportunity for English speakers to enhance their Spanish, as well as acquiring skills in teaching English as a second language (ESL).
Service learners lead language labs for classes of Mexican students who have already taken several semesters at the English Academy, helping with reading comprehension, grammar, and discussing the cultures of both Merida and the U.S. by providing the experience of working with a native English speaker. The average age of the students is around 14-15, but also extends to adults in their 40’s. Classes are held in late afternoon or night so students (and service learners!) can work and go to school during the day. Volunteers do not need to know Spanish to participate. Long lasting friendships and mutual language assistances are formed as a result of this service learning opportunity.
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