Math and economics double major Caroline Dyar changed what she thought about history after taking a trip to the Yucatan Peninsula. She traveled to the southeastern part of Mexico with history professors Dr. Jackie Sumner and Dr. Roy Campbell and 18 fellow PC students.
“I viewed history as a class to check off on my general education requirements,” Caroline said. “After this trip, I had a much greater appreciation for history and the significance of the Mayan people. I did not realize how advanced the Mayan civilization was, and it was truly unique to get to see their empires.”
The students included history majors and minors as well as students from other areas of study. They’re all learning about Mayan history and architecture and the contemporary life and culture of the Mayan people in a course called Encounters Afar: Yucatan.
Learning Outside the Classroom
“I loved the idea of spending half of the semester learning about a topic, and then actually having the opportunity to go see everything that we learned about,” Caroline said.
The students stayed more than 2,500 miles from the PC campus in a colonial city known as Merida. They visited several Mayan sites and spent the week interacting with the local people.
“This trip was a really eye-opening experience to the cultural differences between Mexico and the United States, and also between European and Indigenous cultures,” said Phoebe Jones, a history and theatre double major. “I really got out of the trip the struggles that the Mayan people faced and the incredible ways in which they persevered to preserve their heritage and cultural traditions.”
Some students participated in a centuries-old Mayan ritual called a Temazcal ceremony: They spent two hours sweating in a hot, brick building shaped like an igloo while a shaman chanted. Many of the students enjoyed seeing the Mayan ruins first-hand and swimming in the cetones, or underground caves.
“My favorite part of the trip, besides spending quality time with Dr. Sumner and Dr. Campbell, was connecting what we had been learning in the classroom with hands-on experiences, such as jumping into a cenote from a 30-foot cliff, or climbing to the top of a pyramid in Uxmal,” Phoebe said.
While they enjoyed soaking in the Mayan culture, many of the students appreciated the opportunity to bond with their professors and fellow students.
“It was a great opportunity to explore a country I probably wouldn’t have the opportunity to otherwise, with people who have helped to shape me into the person I am today,” Phoebe said.
Want to learn more about the faculty members Phoebe’s talking about? Read more about Dr. Sumner, Dr. Campbell, and all of the history professors at PC.