The Anthropology Department of the College of Liberal Arts at Texas A&M University offers a series of studies abroad destinations for all Texas A&M undergraduate and graduate students including Scotland, Kyrgyzstan, India, and México.

In this occasion, México was the destination selected for a group of 16 students to spend part of their Christmas break in Mérida, Yucatán, for a study abroad program, which falls under the realms of TAMU’s Yucatán Initiative Project, the largest faculty driven research, academic, and service collaboration established between the Yucatán Research Consortium (SIIDETEY) and TAMU. Dr. Heather Thakar, a Prehistoric Archaeologist and Instructional Assistant Professor of the Anthropology Department at TAMU, was the lead faculty for this 2-week study abroad program, which took place on late December of 2017 and early January of 2018, and was hosted by Mr. Carlos Wabi, Coordinator of Civil Engineering Academy at Universidad Anáhuac Mayab, and former TAMU graduated student.

The program for the Anthropology aggies consisted in taking an Ethics course instructed by Dr. Heather Thakar, and immersing in Yucatan’s cultural diversity. Site visits included the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Chichén Itzá, modern Maya communities, and the Ría Celestún Biosphere Reserve. In addition, the aggies had the opportunity to meet and interact with peers from the Universidad Anáhuac Mayab, an institute member of SIIDETEY.

Dr. Thakar in Yucatan

Dr. Thakar finds the incrusted Jesus

The TAMU students also had the opportunity to share the traditional “Rosca de Reyes” where they cut a piece of “rosca”, a large round sweet bread with dried fruits, hoping to grab a piece with an incrusted plastic baby Jesus. Tradition dictates that whoever picks one baby Jesus should sponsor a “tamales fiesta” for the Candelaria Day, celebrated on February 2. It was a special time shared with friends and new peers.

Dr. Medina-Cetina, PI of the Yucatan Initiative Project at TAMU, welcomed the group of students with deep pride. Other TAMU students from Yucatán also joined the celebration including Miguel Ortiz Cahun and Guillermo Durán, both Dr. Medina-Cetina’s graduate students in the Zachry Department of Civil Engineering at TAMU.

Yucatán’s Department of Research, Innovation and Higher Education (SIIES) sponsors the Yucatán Initiative Project including Anthropology Ethics and other academic programs, such as ELCIR, Foundations of Engineering, and EPICS. Universidad Anáhuac Mayab is expecting to host a second group of 15 Anthropology Aggies on May 2018, which coincides with a 67-student group from the ELCIR 2018 edition in Engineering and Geosciences.

Universidad Marista de Mérida, Universidad Politécnica de Yucatán (UPY), Instituto Tecnológico del Petróleo y Energía (ITPE), and SIIDETEY will host for the fourth consecutive year the ELCIR program.

Without hesitation it is safe to say that the Yucatán Initiative study abroad programs are tracing an important mark on TAMU students’ global perspectives. Whoop!