Honors Study Abroad Updates

Learn about some of the programs available for Summer 2024

UF in Merida

This month-long program takes students through Mérida, Yucatán, Mexico and focuses on both natural science and culture. Participants earn eight total credits for Spanish, Tropical Ecology and Humans and the Environment of the Yucatán Peninsula. Students stay in a local family’s home, experiencing a first-hand dive into Mexican culture and consistent Spanish practice. Field excursions spotlight indigenous communities and various ecosystems, and the city provides vibrant outing opportunities, including musical performances, museums and art displays. Mark Brenner, a geology professor and co-program director alongside Honors Associate Director Regan Garner, called the city “safe, friendly, and fascinating” in explaining his passion for the Yucatán program.

“Aside from what students learn in class and during field trips, they gain experience about traveling in foreign countries, spend time in a region that has an extremely rich archaeological and cultural history, and have an opportunity to interact with Indigenous Maya People. That is, students find themselves in a place that is ‘so foreign’ yet so close to home,” he said.

A unique aspect of the trip is some non-touristy locations that supplement well-known attractions. Brenner and Roger Medina, a University of Yucatán scientist who also leads the program, discovered those “off the beaten track” places over the years, Brenner said. A variety of experiences in the curriculum has brought students with diverse interests together, and Brenner has noticed that students often stay good friends after the trip.

“I think the shared … classroom and field experience is a great aspect of the program.  … It is always my hope that my own passion about foreign travel, and my special love of Yucatan will be infectious,” he said.

UF in Merida has an information session Feb. 1 at 5:10 p.m. in 119 Little Hall. Students can contact program directors Brenner and Garner at brenner@ufl.edu and rlgarner@ufl.edu or advisor Alice Lopes at alopes@ufic.ufl.edu for more information. 

Medieval Studies in King Arthur’s England

Royal Holloway University of London hosts this premiere six-week program, which grants students six credits for Castle & Cloisters and The Tales of King Arthur. Liberal Arts and Sciences Associate Dean and Italian Professor Mary Watt and German and Medieval and Early Modern Studies Professor Will Hasty direct the program. Hikes through England lead students on a journey of learning about King Arthur and the interactions between Roman, Celtic, and Germanic populations in medieval England. Sites include Merlin’s Stonehenge, Roman Baths of the city of Bath, Glastonbury Abbey and Glastonbury Tor. Hasty said the excursions alongside the historical curriculum “leave impressions behind that blend in unforgettable ways.”

“It’s kind of like learning that the more things change, the more they stay the same … Despite momentary defeats and setbacks, the influences of [the Romans, Celts and Germanic peoples] were enduring and profoundly shaped what England became and continues to be – and the Arthurian stories also changed with the times, but always keeping some basic elements intact,” he said.

Hasty appreciates the working relationships the program fosters between faculty and students who share similar interests. The interest in medieval history does not dictate participants’ academic backgrounds, however. Despite the historical focus of the program, students come from a variety of fields.

“There [is] an important aspect of personal enrichment and expanding one’s historical and cultural horizons involved with interests such as these that students clearly appreciate whatever their majors or career aspirations may be,” Hasty said.

Those interested may contact Hasty and Watt at hasty@ufl.edu and marywatt@ufl.edu or the program’s advisor Emma Frierson at efrierson@ufic.ufl.edu with any questions.

UF in Costa Rica

UF partners with the Organization for Tropical Studies and the Tropical Agricultural Research and Higher Education Center for this new four-week venture through Costa Rica. Ecology research is the basis of this program directed by Rose Koenig, the interim director for the Center for Stress Resilient Agriculture, and William Hammond, an IFAS plant ecophysiologist. Six credits are earned for Human Dimensions of Tropical Ecological Systems and Plant Ecology in the Anthropocene.

Field research, readings, discussions, tours and workshops lead the focus of measuring local ecosystems’ responses to anthropogenic climate change. The outdoor research, which takes place in Las Cruces and La Selva, exposes students to diverse biomes, plant ecology and physiology and human interactions with such ecological systems. One project Hammond finds interesting takes place in the International Coffee Collection, what he calls a “living museum of coffee trees from around the world,” in which students learn about plants and climate.

“Students will leave the course having conducted a full research experience … The intent is to give an authentic, hands-on research experience to students while we are in Costa Rica,” Hammond said.

He finds that the ecosystems of Costa Rica provide valuable opportunities for research due to their diversity and close proximity to each other. The land provides systems including montane cloud forests, lowland tropical rainforests and tropical dry forests. Hammond finds researching these to be important in a world undergoing climate change. The program has no prerequisites – neither courses nor background in plants or ecology.

He said, “Spending four weeks focused on plants and people in the Anthropocene provides me the opportunity to help students understand the world around them, the changes it is undergoing, and how active plants are in responding to the world around them … All that is required is a passion for the topic, a desire to learn, and being excited about four weeks in nature in Costa Rica!”

Interested students can direct questions to Hammond and Koenig at williamhammond@ufl.edu and rlkoenig@ufl.edu or advisor Alice Lopes at alopes@ufic.ufl.edu.

Written by UF Honors Communications Fellow, Bari Weiner. Learn more about all of the Honors Study Abroad opportunities here.

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