Study Abroad in Oaxaca, Mexico

Fall Semester Program

Pre-Requisite: Completed through HISP 202 (HISP 301 preferred)

Designed for advanced Spanish language students with an interest in Latin American Studies, this unique semester program explores the intersection of development, culture, and social change through the lens of the dynamic and evolving context of contemporary Mexico. Located in the southwestern Mexican state of Oaxaca – declared “Humanity’s Cultural Patrimony” by the United Nations – the program explores and affirms the rich diversity of contemporary Mexican society and culture. It engages the issues that challenge the country’s continued growth and establishes a foundation to understand the history of U.S./Mexico relations and the Mexican experience in the United States. Ultimately, the program strives to build knowledge and understanding of one of the United States’ closest yet least understood neighbors.


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

All students must have completed at least HISP 202 (HISP 301 preferred)


Students earn 16-17 credits.

Session I: 4-5 credits
HISP 301/403: Required Intensivo (4 credits)

PHED 250: Salsa – PE (1 credit)

Session II: 8 credits
ANTH 387: Mexican Anthropology 1909-2004 – SO (4 credits)
HIST 350: History of Oaxaca – SO (4 credits)
HISP 325/433: TBD (4 credits)
BIOL 287/387*: Biological Effects of Sex and Gender – NS, SM (4 credits)
PLU Associate Professor, Dr. Heidi Schutz (Fall 2020 Site Director)

*BIOL 387 – pre-requisite BIOL 225 & 226

May be available upon request:
BUSA 340: Non-Profit Management (4 credits)

Session III: 4 credits
ARTD 387: Oaxacan Arts – AR (4 credits)
COOP 477: International Work Experience* (4 credits)

Possible Internship Placements

*Departmental credit may be arranged.

Session II Fall 2016

RELI 357: Theological Studies: Theologies of Liberation – RG (4 credits)
PLU Assistant Professor, Michael Zbaraschuk (Fall 2016 Site Director)

Session II Fall 2017

HISP 325/433: Literature – Make Yourself at Home: Dimensions of Mexican Hospitality  (4 credits)
PLU Assistant Professor, Adela Ramos (Fall 2017 Site Director) 

Session II Fall 2018

HISP 325/433: Voces sureñas: La literatura indígena del sureste de México  (4 credits)
PLU Assistant Professor of English, Wendy Call (Fall 2018 Site Director)
Course website

Session II Fall 2019

HIST 350: History of Mexico – SO (4 credits)
Professor of History and Latin American Studies, John Lear (Fall 2019 Site Director)

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 Oaxacan experts of their field. HISP 433 is taught by the PLU or UPS faculty Site Director.

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 archaeological sites and museums as well as engage in meetings and dialogues with community, non-profit, 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

Tamara Williams
Professor Hispanic Studies
Director, Oaxaca Program
Executive Director, Wang Center for Global Education

Brynn Smith
Semester Program 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 HISP 202, preferably 301, 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, Global Studies, Gender Studies, Ethnic Studies, Latino Studies, International Relations, cross-cultural education, literacy, international law, public policy/administration

All courses are taught in Spanish.

Application Deadline

Fall applications are due March 15

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.

NOTE: Each academic year the current application is made available during International Education Week in November.

Application Components

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

Student Experience

Visit the Digital Humanities Oaxaca website to see student experiences from 2014 until now, upcoming professors for the next semester, and more! This is for students interested in this program who want a full view of the potential experiences they could have in Oaxaca.

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


Check out this newsletter (in Spanish) from the Fall 2014 Oaxaca group.

Find us on Facebook
Check out the Oaxaca Program’s Fall 2015 and also the  Fall 2014 Facebook pages for frequent updates (including photos and videos!) from the group.

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

Relevant Information
New York Times article on the beauty, history, politics, and vibes of Oaxaca.

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
Oaxaca alum Brian Erickson (2009) 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.


Currently, the state of Oaxaca does not have a Travel Warning. As we do for all study away, PLU has safety precautions and emergency response procedures in place. This report articulates the value of study in Mexico well:

“Given Mexico’s proximity and strengths, U.S. and Canadian higher education institutions must deliberately and strategically include Mexico in the realization of their internationalization goals. Student mobility is a key aspect of this work, and time, cost, risk and the expected experience are all critical elements in expanding mobility of U.S. and Canadian students abroad. Given the misconceptions and realities regarding study in Mexico, perhaps the key barrier to travel in Mexico lies within our own institutions. Failure to consider and expand upon travel to Mexico would be a disservice to our students who may not otherwise travel, or to those who select more costly or in fact “less international” locations as a result of unjustified fears or misconceptions. The current political environment in fact suggests that higher education institutions may have a unique role in advancing the economic and political future of the Americas, and we must recognize that Mexico is indeed the global next door.” Full Report

Program Highlights

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