Study Abroad

Mexico

Puebla Internship Program

ATTENTION SPANISH MAJOR AND MINOR STUDENTS:

The Department of Modern Languages requires

SPA 303 and SPA 304

be taken at UW-L prior to studying abroad.

A student pursuing a major or a minor in Spanish at University of Wisconsin-La Crosse may earn up to 66% of the credit hours for the major/minor requirement in a foreign country.  Thirty-four percent (34%) of the credit hours must be earned at UW-L.  The student is required to take at least one three-credit course in Spanish at UW-L after returning from the country of study. 

PUEBLA INTERNSHIP PROGRAM
The Puebla Internship Program is a unique opportunity to immerse oneself in the Spanish language and experience Mexican culture. Designed as a capstone experience, this program was originally designed for Spanish and Spanish Education majors intent on receiving a significant work/teaching experience while improving their Spanish language skills. It has been expanded to include students from other areas of the university (Business and Marketing, Social Work and Criminal Justice, Political Science, Archaeology and Anthropology, etc.) who have studied Spanish through at least Intermediate Spanish (SPA 303/304) or who are native speakers of the language.

PUEBLA
Known as “the city of tiles,” Puebla is Mexico’s sixth largest city with more than a million inhabitants. At an altitude of 7050 feet, Puebla has a unique climate. From late April until early November afternoon showers are common, but the days are always warm and the nights cool. It is located near the snow-capped mountain known as “Popocatepetl” which means “the Kneeling Warrior.” The Puebla region is an important anthropological and historical repository. Here, the battle of Cinco de Mayo was fought against the French. It is a town of quaint charm, and hidden convents with Spanish-style patios, flowery arches and “cantera” fountains. A short distance from Puebla is the city of Cholula, famed for its pyramids and many churches.

Memo on Mexican Safety
February 2013
Puebla Mexico
Dr. David L. Brye

Hola potential Mexico traveler,

I am responding to a request for information on safety in Mexico. The U.S. State Department issued its most recent Mexico Travel Warning on November 20, 2012. This warning is strongly worded about travel in border areas and some states of Mexico—mainly in the north and west of the country—where narco (drug) activity is greatest.

However, the warning also points to a number of Mexican states where they offer no negative travel advisory. These include Guanajuato, Hidalgo, Oaxaxa, Chiapas, Tlaxcala and Mexico City. Puebla is also one of those states with no negative advisory. An independent analysis by RRS y Asociados, (www.prominix.com) based on 2011 data, bears out this report. On almost every crime figure – homicide, kidnapping, extortion, assault, rape—Puebla is in the lowest group of Mexican states—sometimes below figures for the U.S. or Canada.

As a 30 year resident of Mexico—the past 16 of those in the city of Puebla I heartily agree with these analyses. I read/scan five Mexican newspapers almost every day plus the Mexico City News in English. Four of these are from Mexico City, two from the city of Puebla. I also talk to other Americans as well as Mexican friends. My observations are as follows:

Puebla city and state: I have seen no reports of tourists being attacked in a violent manner for the last several years. I'm sure there have been robberies affecting tourists—there always are in any big city. On rare occasions, local city buses are stopped and drivers/passengers robbed. This has never happened to any of my students nor to friends of mine nor to the young people who live in my apartment and frequently use public transportation. I just polled them all—neither they nor their classmates/work colleagues have ever had this experience. It very seldom happens on the express buses between Mexico City and Puebla and almost never on those between Puebla and Cuetzalan.

Cuetzalan: This small city (more like a small town in the U.S.) is in a tranquil area of the state. Any violence is apt to be between two friends drinking too much in a local cantina. Again, I've had no reports of any tourist (the area is a popular weekend tourist destination) being physically attacked or even robbed over the 25+ years I've been going there.

Mexico City: It is surprising to me that there is very little narco-related activity in one of the largest cities in the world. Obviously, any large city can be a dangerous place. I would not wander around Chicago—or even parts of Minneapolis-St. Paul or Milwaukee at night. The same applies to Mexico City.

Resort areas: Acapulco has become increasingly dangerous in part because it is in Guerrero, one of the areas involved in the narcotics trade. Where there are many tourists, especially some careless ones, there will be people ready to prey on them.

The recent incident of rape of seven Spanish tourists in an isolated beach near Acapulco is terrible but also extremely unusual.

Drug traffic related deaths: The great majority (80%?) of the violent deaths are related to wars between rival drug gangs. Even many of the police killed are the result of their working for a rival gang. Again, these are mainly in the border area and in states in the north and west of Mexico. Almost none have been reported from the state of Puebla. And even in dangerous areas only a small percentage affect innocent passersby.

Kidnapping ("secuestros") for ransom: These can happen especially in cities. They usually involve Mexican businessmen and other Mexicans with money. Tourists are very seldom affected as this would bring the intervention of a foreign government and more effort to catch the kidnapping gang.

Child stealing—other than kidnapping for ransom: Blond haired and other U.S./European tourists are not a likely target because they would be much more difficult to hide—and, again, would attract much more government action. This is a prominent fear for families in poor communities—including those in the Cuetzalan area—though I've not heard of anyone actually losing their child.

Violent actions, major robberies and rape, while not that common, are more likely to happen to students and others who go out late at night, drink heavily and go off by themselves.

My recommendations:
  • Avoid border towns and major resort areas – especially Acapulco. For a good place to relax, I recommend Tecolutla on the Gulf coast in the state of Veracruz—very good hotels with swimming pools—and great beaches.
  • Always travel in groups—especially at night and, especially, women.
  • Keep an eye on children—they should not wonder around on their own even in Cuetzalan unless they are with someone you can trust.
  • Avoid going out late at night and never drink too much.
  • Avoid dangerous areas of any city.
  • Leave valuables, including plane tickets and passports in a hotel safe. I have never been robbed in a hotel room—though I know others who have. On the other hand, my car has been entered and my pocket has been picked—though not for many years. Avoid bringing expensive or family heirloom jewelry and watches. I would also not carry more than one or two ATM/credit cards with me. Again, leave most of them in the U.S. Unless you plan on making many purchases, there is no need to bring more than one ATM card and one or two credit cards.
  •  If you carry any of these items, you should do so in a money belt/neck bag rather than in a wallet or purse. Purses are especially easy to steal.
  • Use either traveler's checks or ATM cards. I use the latter to transfer all my money from my U.S. account—even in Cuetzalan. Do not use ATM machines at night or in deserted areas.
We are not talking about perfect safety in Mexico—or in many parts of the U.S. for that matter. But the odds of misadventure happening are pretty long in Puebla and especially in Cuetzalan.

I hope this has been of some assistance. Again, I think the State Department warning and scare stories have done a disservice to many areas of Mexico. I grew up in rural Wisconsin where fear of large cities like Chicago and New York were common. And when I left for the Boston area to go to graduate school, some family members were worried about my safe return. Travel anywhere always increases risks as you are on unfamiliar ground. However, the programs I work with and the areas I take students and others are not much more risky than travel in the U.S.

I have attached statistics on homicides – especially narco-related—for different areas in Mexico. These are mainly for 2011 as figure for 2012 are still incomplete.
Narcotics-related homicides in Mexico for 2011: General homicide rate per 100,000
Major narco-states:    
Chihuaha (includes Ciudad Juarez) 1,940 131
Nuevo Leon 1,789 46
Guerrero 1,536 71
Sinaloa 1,412 71
Durango  947 65
     
Other states with deaths over 200:    
Jalisco (includes Guadalajara) 776 20
Tamaulipas 675 32
Coahuila 595 26
State of Mexico (Mexico City suburbs, Toluca) 454 17
Veracruz 350 13
Michoacan 325 19
Nayarit  217 53
     
All other states are under 200 including:    
Distrito Federal (Mexico City) 181 12
Morelos (includes Cuernavaca) 122 25
Oaxaca 58 18
Puebla (includes Cuetzalan) 54 7
Quintana Roo (includes Cancun) 39 12
Chiapas 26 4
Tlaxcala  4 7
     
Mexico – the country 12,366 24

Data for the first eight months of 2012 reveal only slight changes with Mexico’s homicide rate per 100,000 at 12.5, Chihuahua at 45, Guerrero at 44, Puebla at 7.6, the DF at 5.8 and Tlaxcala at 2.7. Multiply by 1.5 to get the annual rate.

By the way, this compares with homicide rates of 71 for El Salvador, 52 for Guatemala, 34 for Belize, 22 for Brazil – and 58 for New Orleans!

ACADEMIC PROGRAM
The internship in Puebla will be for five weeks—with a weekly seminar—offering the Mexican Civilization course as well as the Current Events course. However, both courses will include an assignment for the final four weeks in the Nahua village described below.

The last four weeks of the program will be spent in Cuetzalan in the Sierra Norte of the state of Puebla. Located in the midst of beautiful mountain and surrounded by Nahua indigenous villages, Cuetzalan is a picturesque county seat of about 30,000 in habitants.

Participants in the program will be housed in a hotel run by a cooperative of indigenous women. They will be teaching ETL (English as a Third Language) to young people in San Miguel Tzinacapan. In San Miguel, Nahuatl is the language of the home, Spanish is learned as children enter primary school. In addition to teaching English four hours a day, students will be able to enter into the life of the village, getting to know the people, eating in their homes and sharing their lives. It is possible to receive ESL credit for this part of the program.

Advanced Spanish Language Courses (3-4 credits)

  • Mexican Civilization (taught in Spanish) 3 credits
  • Current Events 1 credit

Practical Work/Classroom Experience/Internship (2-3 credits)

  • SPA 450 International Internship in Spanish 2-3 credits
  • C-I 445 Refining Teaching Skills/Level III Clinical Experience 3 credits
  • INS 450 International Internship 3 credits
  • Department 450 Internship

Please contact the Modern Languages Advisor(s) identified for your program.

COURSE EQUIVALENCIES
The course equivalencies spreadsheets have been compiled from past approved Academic Plan forms.  They show when the course was last approved and how it transferred back to La Crosse.  You may notice that some classes satisfied several UWL options.

This list is not comprehensive nor does it take the place of  meeting with your advisor for final approval!  They are meant to be a guide of what courses may be appropriate for your studies abroad.

DIRECTOR AND FACULTY
David Brye, Director of the Puebla Teachers’ Internship Program, has lived and worked in Mexico since 1981. He has taught at the University of the Americas-Puebla, the University of Monterrey, and the Institituto Tecnologico de Monterrey (ITESM). Before relocating to Mexico, he received his M.A. and Ph.D. in History from Harvard University and taught at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa, for 16 years. He has created and directed many programs in Mexico over the last dozen years.

The faculty for the program will be chosen from Puebla universities and language schools. Most will have Ph.D.’s or Master’s in their fields. The language teachers will be native speakers of English.

HOUSING AND MEALS
Students in the program will be housed with middle class families who are experienced in working with international programs. Normally, only one student is placed with each family to allow for maximum exposure to the language and culture.

PASSPORTS & VISAS
Before you travel abroad, you will need to obtain a passport, which will serve as proof of your U.S. citizenship. A passport may allow you to gain entry to (and exit from) other countries. Depending on the country to which you're traveling, a visa may be required as well. Entry requirements vary from one country to another. The U.S. State Department issues travel warnings specific to certain countries, and offers tips and publications relevant to travel abroad generally. Well in advance of your departure, you should also familiarize yourself with international travel health issues, and health recommendations specific to your destination.

PROGRAM FEE
The program fee includes the following:

  • Tuition (6-7 credits)
  • University and Administrative Fees
  • Homestay with meals, hotel, and meals on field trips
  • Ground Transportation from Mexico City to Puebla upon arrival
  • Visit to Cuetzalan and San Miguel Tzinacapan (an indigenous village)
  • Study Abroad Health Insurance (mandated by UW System)
  • International Student Identity Card (ISIC)
  • Study Abroad Graduation Sash

All program fees subject to change. Valid for undergraduate Wisconsin residents only; out-of-state students pay Minnesota reciprocity or a non-resident surcharge.

Airfare is not included in the program fee.

Financial aid is applicable.
Refer to Program Fees for the most current program fee.

ADMISSION CRITERIA

  • 2.5 minimum GPA
  • The desire to experience the world and receive academic credit for doing it!

ORIENTATION
All students will be required to attend a pre-departure orientation. The orientation will help you prepare for international travel in general, and for the experience of visiting Mexico. Program alumni will be on hand to answer your questions.

FOR MORE INFORMATION
Dr. Brye's Memo on Mexican Safety
Tips and Advice from Program Alumni

 

Back        ● Apply!        ● Fees        Dates       Alumni Comments

Study Abroad Homepage        OIE Homepage

 

Office of International Education
1209 Centennial Hall
University of Wisconsin-La Crosse
1725 State Street
La Crosse, WI 54601 USA

Telephone: 608-785-8016 Fax: 608-785-8923 E-Mail: studyabroad@uwlax.edu