College of Education > Mexico Program

Boundary work in Oaxaca Mexico: Experiences in Multilingualism, Indigenous Knowledge, and Intercultural Exchange

Overview of Program

Boundary work in Oaxaca is a four-week study abroad program with a homestay in Mexico for undergraduate students from all campuses, schools and fields of study of The Pennsylvania State University. A unique aspect of this program is that it consists of a partnership with Mexican universities (La Universidad Autónoma Benito Juárez de Oaxaca (UABJO), and Universidad de la Tierra (UniTierra). This program will: foster the development of social responsibility in multilingual contexts, encourage the development of diverse perspectives in border issues and cultural understanding, promote collaboration and intercultural engagement  between students of Penn State and Mexican university student partners and allow participants to analyze their beliefs about language, race and culture in relation to their identities.

Pre-travel Preparation

Before traveling to Mexico, participants will enroll in a six-week preparatory online/on campus course during the late spring semester (from March-April 2020). During course sessions, students will engage in informative discussions on topics ranging from multilingualism, to interculturality, coloniality and decolonization.

While in Mexico

Spanish or Zapotec Language Course

While in Mexico, participants will have the choice of either taking a Spanish or Zapotec(an indigenous language spoken in the southwestern-central highlands of Mexico) class based on their preferences or experiences. Classes will be held on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday mornings from 9:30am-12pm and will be offered at La Universidad Autónoma Benito de Juárez in Oaxaca, Mexico.  

Boundary Work Course

In transitioning from the course during the morning session, this class will take place from 2:00-4:30 pm on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursday’s and focuses on promoting an understanding of issues such as: migration, gender roles in society, racism, politics and decolonization within a Mexican context. Participants from Penn State will collaborate with advanced level English Language learners from Mexican universities on research projects to assist them in enhancing their communicative abilities as a part of their program field experience requirement. Classes will be co-taught by Penn State and UABJO faculty with guest lectures and discussions led by UniTierra members on topics related to community-based learning experiences.

Community Experience Course

Tuesday’s have been reserved for the community experience course. On Tuesday’s from 9-4pm, participants will engage in experiential learning opportunities with indigenous communities to enhance their understanding of cultural practices in Mexico. Students will engage in meaningful learning experiences at various sites such as: Teotitlán del Valle, San Pablo Etla, Universidad de la Tierra and the Huayapam community. During these site visits, participants will: visit an indigenous women’s weaving cooperative and a local bilingual school, participate in a workshop on making tamales and confectionary, experience an ancestral way of healing with Temazcal and visit El pedregal-a communal center focused on alternative technologies. 

Experiential Learning Experiences

Students will participate in learning experiences to regional Afro-Mexican and indigenous communities in Puerto Escondido and the Tlacochahuaya community respectively. While there, students will learn about Afro-Mexican histories and culture, and social issues within a Mexican context. The Tlacochahuaya community will allow students to visit a bilingual school and experience the daily work of the community in agriculture and basket weaving. 


Students will stay with a local Mexican family and will share three meals daily. This will allow for daily multilingual and multicultural experiences in addition to the classes being taken.