Editor’s note: “Huskies Abroad” is a bi-weekly column covering UW’s extensive study abroad programs and providing recommendations on specific programs and travel destinations.
Across the Pacific Ocean from Oceania lie the American continents. There’s no shame in wanting to travel a little closer to home, especially if you’re looking for a cheaper time zone for calling home. It could be argued that going to a foreign university can also be viewed as “studying abroad,” but I want to focus on a few of our underrated continental neighbors.
Whether you love snow or sandy beaches, North and Central America offer many options for the average tourist. However, students have access to universities throughout North and Central America and the opportunity to learn the local languages. Not only will you experience a different perspective on “American life,” you will also gain a better understanding of how the United States aligns with and influences the countries in which you choose to study.
North of the United States lies the second largest country in the world with fewer inhabitants than California. Canada is a sprawling country known for its outdoors and hospitality. UW offers a variety of ways to explore the country to your heart’s content.
The province of British Columbia is close and convenient for those who don’t want to travel too far from Seattle. the University of Victoria is just a ferry ride away, and as the capital of British Columbia, Victoria is a great destination for learning about Canadian culture and politics. According to the program brochure, the University of Victoria is British Columbia’s third-largest research institution and Canada’s leading university in the practice of deep-sea seafloor observation. The academic course load at the University of Victoria is similar to UW academic programs, so adapting to it as a UW exchange student should be relatively easy.
In this exchange program you may have the opportunity to see the place Butchart Gardens or go whale watching near the island’s ports. From my personal experience, I would recommend taking a horse-drawn carriage ride around the British Columbia Parliament Buildings in Victoria. I promise it’s magical.
Would you like to learn French in a country outside of France? Then Québec City in eastern Canada should pique your interest. the Laval French language program The intensive course offered by the University of Laval is designed for students who are passionate about learning French and its local Canadian variant, Québécois. The program is tailored to each student’s language level and the university campus is close to the city center – convenient for any student tourist. Take a stroll through the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Old Québec and learn about the influence of French settlement.
In the beautiful rainforest country of Costa Rica there is so much to learn about the country and the people. Costa Ricans have one of the highest life expectancies in the world and also have a high happiness index. This small country in Central America embodies the expression “pura vida”, which means “pure life”. Not only is it a common greeting among the people of Costa Rica, but it also speaks to their way of life.
Nowhere is learning about Costa Rican culture and surroundings more accessible than here SEFS Costa Rica: Natural and Cultural History of Costa Rica, an early fall launch program designed to immerse students in local culture and habitats. The program takes you across the country to explore Costa Rica’s tropical ecosystem and learn about the impact that human activities and ecotourism are having in shaping the natural world. While this program includes a lot of running and hiking, the views you encounter on your journey will be worth the physical exertion. The UW Study Abroad website also ensures that these hikes through the rainforest and along the beach have a 100% completion rate. Unless you want to be the first person to change this statistic, you should have little trouble exploring Costa Rica on foot with supporting faculties by your side.
Our southern neighbor Mexico is known for its tasty food, hospitable people and vibrant culture. While beach cities like Cancun are the more notable destinations that college students travel to during spring break, a trip to the less frequently visited spots in Mexico would help students understand more about the country’s culture.
One of the most urban areas in Mexico is the capital, Mexico City. The UW Faculty of Architecture offers Architecture Mexico: Mexico City almost every two years in the spring quarter. This program highlights the city’s urban and architectural paradoxes in relation to other cities in the United States, such as Seattle. According to the program brochure, students will analyze the pros and cons of Mexico City’s recent economic growth, which has led to both urban mobility and income inequality. Students have the opportunity to mingle with locals and take classes in the studio of critically acclaimed Mexican architect Luis Barragán. Learning in the same space once occupied by such an influential contemporary architect is sure to be a great experience for anyone.
If you’re more interested in learning about people than the buildings they inhabit, you can Spanish Oaxaca: Window to Oaxaca – Examining the impact of migration on communities and a case study in sustainable development program could suit your taste better. Instead of Mexico City, explore the diverse state of Oaxaca. According to the program brochure, a third of Oaxaca’s residents speak one of the region’s 16 different indigenous languages. This program requires an advanced level of Spanish as you will live in houses in Oaxaca with local families and attend the prestigious language school Instituto Cultural Oaxaca. In this program, you will study the migration patterns of indigenous and mestizo populations in Mexico and the current social practices of communities in Oaxaca. You’ll immerse yourself in the local market and farmer culture, and you’ll also have the chance to celebrate Mexico’s Independence Day with the locals. In Mexico, you have the right to expect an exciting and beautiful experience.
Let’s travel to the country that connects Central and South America: Panama. According to the Embassy of Panama, it is the only country in the world where you can see the sunrise in the Pacific Ocean and the sunset in the Atlantic Ocean. Panama is also home to the Panama Canal, the man-made waterway that connects these two oceans. The country is steeped in history as a former Spanish colony and trading center, as well as being home to one of the most biodiverse countries in the world.
the SIT Study Abroad Panama: Tropical Ecology, Marine Ecosystems and Biodiversity Conservation The program gives you the opportunity to explore environmental and conservation issues in Panama’s mangrove forests, seagrass beds and coral reefs. Instead of the usual university accommodations, this program offers five homestay experiences that introduce students to local Panamanian culture and customs. According to the program brochure, Panama is one of the most important sites of the United Nations and would also be a great place for students to understand the history of Panama through an international lens.
The United States often excludes North and Central America, but any country here is just as worth traveling and studying as any of our 50 states. You can choose to explore the snow-capped mountains of Canada or the beautiful beaches of Costa Rica, and you’ll see everything North and Central America has to offer outside of the Seattle perspective.
Reach columnist Kimberly Quiocho at [email protected] Twitter: @kimberlyquiocho
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