Study Abroad in Oaxaca, Mexico

Fall Semester Program

The Fall 2016 Oaxaca Program offers a Conservation Biology option for designed for students in the Natural Sciences with some Spanish language background.

Students explore the relationship between people and the conservation of the natural resources that surround the communities in which they live. The tension between development and preservation of biodiversity affects the vitality of both nature and human societies. The course is set within the context and scientific principles of conservation biology – the study of animals and plants whose populations are limited and hence are in danger of extinction or extirpation. Population ecology and ecological genetics are key topics. Because conservation biology is an applied science, we will connect its concepts to the development of communities and specifically those in the valley of Oaxaca.  In so doing we will study and learn from the ways in which people value, exploit, manage, use and preserve nature.


Biology, Environmental Studies, Spanish Language, Latin American Studies, development,  social justice, non-profit organizations


Students earn 16-17 credits.

Session I:

HISP 201/202/301/401: Language Intensive (4 credits)

PHED 224: Salsa – PE (1 credit)

Session II:
BIOL 287/387: Conservation Biology and Sustainable Development – SM, NS (8 credits)
PLU Professor, Dr. William Teska (Fall 2016)

Prerequisite: BIOL 226 only for those students enrolled as BIOL 387

Course Highlights:

  • Concepts of population ecology and ecological genetics
  • Field studies and practical applications
  • Interdisciplinary analyses of case studies in sustainable development
  • Weekly laboratories with computer modeling, field trips, and experiments
  • Participatory development workshop training
  • Fulfills: “ENVT & Science” credit for the Environmental Studies major or minor
  • Bridges with internship projects

Session III:
COOP 477: International Work Experience in the natural sciences* (4 credits)

*Departmental credit may be arranged.

PLU Course Equivalency

Use the online Interactive Guide to see how students have used study away credit from the Oaxaca Gateway Program at PLU. This tool serves as a starting point for academic planning. If a course equivalency is not listed, it may be requested from the appropriate academic department.


Students take Spanish courses from the Instituto Cultural Oaxaca. The courses offered in Session II are taught by the PLU program coordinator, Dr. William Teska.

Pacific Lutheran University awards all credits earned in this program. Semester-long study away programs fulfill PLU’s Cross Cultural Diversity requirement.

Course and study tour offerings are subject to change.

Fall Study Tours

Group Study Tours deepen knowledge of Mexico’s past as well as nuance and complicate students’ knowledge of pressing issues facing Mexico today. Oaxaca Program participants visit World Heritage archeological sites and museums as well as engage in meetings and dialogues with community, nonprofit, union and government leaders, Mexican scholars, artists, and intellectuals to learn about topics that include: U.S. Mexico relations, the impact of neo-liberal trends in both the urban and rural sector; push/pull factors impacting migration and related Human Rights and Social Justice issues; the tension between diverse identities (ethnic, gender, racial, class) and national identity, among others. The program places special emphasis that underscores the agency, creativity, entrepreneurship and effectiveness of grassroots efforts to respond to these and other challenges.


You will live with a host family where you will be fully immersed in the Spanish language and Oaxacan culture. You will join your family for two meals a day. You are provided with a monthly stipend for the third meal, which gives you the freedom to eat locally.

Program Fee

The PLU comprehensive fee for Fall semester covers this academic experience (instruction and academic credit, housing and meal stipend, study tours, study abroad insurance, visa fees, and a $750 flight credit). To find the current comprehensive fee for one semester, divide the total full-year cost listed on the Admissions website by two. Please note that the comprehensive fee varies each year, and the cost of this program will be based on the year in which you study away. Financial aid applies.

Out-of-pocket Expenses

Some air travel, books, personal excursions, and other miscellaneous expenses are not included in program cost.

Global Scholar Award

All PLU Gateway & Featured Programs are Global Scholar Award eligible. This need-based award can cover out-of-pocket expenses up to $2,500 on PLU Gateway and Featured semester programs.

For non-PLU students, please check with your home institution or sponsoring study abroad organization on program cost.

External Scholarships

For more outside scholarship opportunities, please visit our Funding webpage.

Contact Us

Dr. Tamara R. Williams
Professor Hispanic Studies
Director, Oaxaca Program

Dr. William Teska
Professor Biology
Coordinator, Oaxaca Program

Tanya Ulsted
Study Away Coordinator & Gateway Programs Manager


Sophomore, junior, or senior standing. Students must have a minimum 3.0 or higher G.P.A. Must be a student in good standing. Language prerequisite: Completion of Spanish 102, preferably 201, at PLU or the equivalent.

Demonstrated interest in one of the following: Latin American Studies and/or Mexican history, politics, economic development, and culture; Environmental Studies, Biology, Global Studies, Gender Studies, Ethnic Studies, Latino Studies, International Relations, cross-cultural education, literacy, international law, public policy/administration

Application Deadline

Fall 2017 applications are due March 15, 2017

A $50 non-refundable fee is due with the application. A $300 non-refundable program payment to confirm participation is required within 10 days of acceptance.

Application Components

  • Online application
  • Short essays
  • 2 recommendation forms (1 faculty, 1 professional)
  • Application fee

Find us on Facebook
Check out the Oaxaca Program’s Fall 2014 Facebook page for frequent updates (including photos and videos!) from the group.

Student Experience
Visit these blogs by PLU students, Sydney and Ellie, to keep up with their experiences in Oaxaca during Fall 2014.

Photo Gallery
Check out our Flickr Photo Gallery to see pictures from past participants in the Oaxaca program.

Bringing it Home
After studying in Oaxaca and returning to conduct research through a Wang Center Research Grant, alum Saiyare Refaei spearheaded the Parkland Community Mural Project to connect PLU with the local community.

Reflections on the Program
Learn about PLU student Alexis Stauffer’s experience studying in Oaxaca during Fall 2012 as a Hispanic Studies and Global Studies double major.

Immigration Rights Advocacy
Brian Erickson ’09 currently works as a Policy Advocate for the ACLU of New Mexico’s Regional Center for Border Rights and recently spoke at the Wang Center’s 2014 Legacies of the Shoah Symposium.

Oaxaca Alum Discovers New Species
After studying away and receiving a Wang Center Research Grant, Reed Ojala-Barbour (2011) recently discovered a new mammal species while completing a Fulbright in Ecuador. Learn more about Reed’s work.

Alumni Stories
Check out what Oaxaca program alums, Carrie, Gai-Hoai and Jake did after PLU and how their experiences in Oaxaca impacted their vocational path.

Program Highlights

  • Fall Semester program (mid-August to mid-December)
  • Biology coursework fulfills GenEds and ENVT requirements
  • Spanish language intensive
  • Host family
  • Study Tours to Mexico City, local villages and more
  • PLU/UPS faculty on-site
  • Internship option