This past week, I had an opportunity to take part in a study abroad program as part of my doctorate coursework. Instead of taking a class on policy (snooze), I had the option to take a course about designing experiential learning activities, specifically community-based global learning through a study abroad in Bucerías, Mexico.
Honestly, I couldn’t pass up the chance. I studied in London as part of my bachelor’s degree, and it was such an incredible experience. This experience fits in perfectly with my dissertation topic, which will study the impact of student-led experiential learning activities on the students’ leadership development. And even though it meant that I would travel to a foreign country to meet up with 11 other students I didn’t know, I leapt at the chance.
Over the course of the experience, we partnered with Human Connections, an organization that showcases Bucerías through responsible tourism. Throughout the week, we visited with the company’s various partners, who taught us about their lives and their work. (Honestly, if you ever find yourself in Puerto Vallarta, take a tour with Human Connections. You’ll learn so much and gain so much appreciation for crafters who make a living from their work.)
In addition to meeting with the partners, we visited San Pancho, a small coastal village, and entreamigos, an incredible community non-profit. We also traveled to Sayulita, another coastal village to visit the Galeria Tanana, to learn more about the Huichol people and their artwork. We also were fortunate enough to visit Puerto Vallarta and Centro Universitario de la Costa to learn more about higher education in Mexico and SETAC, an LGBTQ+ center.
I’ve been back for nearly 24 hours, but I am still processing the experience. It means a lot to me to have had the opportunity to learn more about Bucerías and the incredible people who work so hard there. While I took many pictures of my trip, which you can see below, I did not take photos of them. I didn’t feel it would be fair to showcase the people and their stories in any way that could be construed as exploitative.
In addition, I am grateful to have gotten to know my professors better and met some great doctoral and master’s students from Northern Illinois University. I spent so much time with them, especially the doctoral students, and I am grateful for all that I learned from them.
Now that the experience is over, I have two papers left to write for the class, one of which is a reflection about my time in Mexico. Maybe then, I’ll be able to express myself more coherently. For now, enjoy these photos of Puerto Vallarta, Bucerías, San Pancho, and Saylita, as well as the Pacific Ocean.