Thursday, January 29, 2009

Work with Indigenous Mayan Communities in Guatemala: Summer 2009 Ethnographic Field School

North Carolina State University announces the Sixteenth Annual

Ethnographic Field School, Summer 2009

Lake Atitlán, Guatemala

May 22 - July 12, 2009

Nature, Heritage, Identity, and Globalization in Mayan Communities

Field school website: or through the NCSU Study Abroad Office website:


Learn how to design, conduct and write-up your own independent research project while on the shores of a crystal lake framed by volcanoes! During the seven week program time, live and work with an indigenous Guatemalan family in the Lake Atitlán area of the Western Highlands. Whether you are an undergraduate or graduate student, training as an ethnographic researcher can prove to be beneficial for a variety of majors, such as anthropology, sociology, international affairs, history, education, textiles, natural resource management business and management, political science, psychology, and public health. All students are encouraged to apply, especially students interested in topics concerning the environment, globalization, social justice, tourism, conservation, language, development, poverty and health. Not sure how your interests may fit into the topics listed? The program is tailored individually to maximize the participant's potential for understanding and developing the skills needed for ethnographic research. Students also will have opportunities to pursue an applied, service-learning project in lieu of a research project. Contact the Program Directors (; to discuss potential opportunities for your areas of interest.

The program and eligibility

Within the supportive framework of the NC State Guatemala Program students learn the fundamentals of ethnographic fieldwork, including project design and management, data collection and report writing. Students also quickly improve their Spanish language skills through intensive, daily interaction with their homestay families and other community members. Guatemalans are friendly and outgoing with an ancient and rich, Mayan cultural heritage. The program is designed for 13-14 participants who may be either undergraduates, graduate students or post-baccalaureate students. Students will learn how the contemporary Maya of the Lake Atitlán area are adapting to changing demographics, the effects of the global economic slowdown on traditional exports such as coffee and traditional textiles, as well as on the continuing presence of more and more tourists and foreign residents. The program is not limited to students of NC State University and many previous participants have come from all over the US, Canada, the UK, and Guatemala. The program is also affiliated with the Universidad del Valle-Guatemala City (UVG) and the Universidad del Valle-Altiplano (Solola). Some Spanish language skills and some course work or familiarity with anthropology are desirable.

The Research Site

Lake Atitlán is one of the most majestic and scenic spots in all of Latin America. Ringed by active and extinct volcanoes and about a mile in elevation, the 55 sq. mi. lake was formed out of an ancient volcanic basin (crater). Dotting the shores of the lake are about a dozen small villages inhabited by the contemporary descendants of the ancient Maya. Panajachel (pop. 9000) is the largest town and will be the headquarters for the program. Students will be located in homestays in one of the ten other towns surrounding the lake shores. The view of the lake from Panajachel and the other towns is magnificent, and the attractive sunsets and views daily lure many tourists over the years. Yet, the region has retained much of their traditional Mayan heritage.Guatemala has the largest indigenous population in Mexico and Central America. There are approximately 23 different languages spoken in Guatemala and three of them are spoken around Lake Atitlán (Kaqchikel, Tzutujil and Quiche). Despite conquests and civil wars, the Mayans have survived for nearly two millennia. Lake Atitlan is one of the best places in Central America to learn about this amazingly durable and vibrant culture.

Six Course Credits (graduate or undergraduate)

ANT 419 Ethnographic Field Methods. (3 cr.) This is a field methods course that emphasizes practical training in ethnographic fieldwork and ethics. Applied research methods such as focus groups and rapid assessment procedures will also be demonstrated. Students learn research design, systematic observation, interviewing, fieldnote-taking, coding, ethics data analysis and report writing.

ANT 431/531 Tourism, Change and Anthropology (3 cr.) This course focuses on tourism and the role of culture as it affects the interactions between hosts and guests. Students learn through seminar discussions and field work the problems underlying the achievement of sustainable tourism and maintenance of cultural traditions.
Graduate and Post-Baccalaureate students will be enrolled in ANT 610 Independent Study in Anthropology (6cr).

Note: English is the language of instruction, but Spanish is an invaluable tool for a full experience. The focus of all course work is the design, implementation and write- up of an independent research project with an applied focus.


Each student will be housed with a local Mayan family in one of ten communities around Lake Atitlan. Each student will receive room, breakfast, lunch and dinner and laundry services. Families also help students learn Spanish and establish networks in the community.

Program Costs

The cost of the seven-week program is only $3150. The single fee covers all expenses (except airfare) including:
  • room, board (three meals/day), laundry
  • tuition for six credits
  • full coverage health insurance during stay abroad
  • program fees and instruction
  • local transportation costs and transfer fees
  • national park entrance fees
  • research supplies
  • free rental of a cellphone (works both in-country and for inexpensive, international calls), and
  • in-country excursions (Colonial Antigua, Indigenous markets at Chichicastenango, rituals in Patzun, climbing Volcan Pacaya, and the Mayan ruins of Iximche among others)

Airfare from most US cities is approximately $575-650. Students are strongly encouraged to bring a laptop word processor to the field. Other than a valid passport, US and Canadian citizens need no other documents to enter Guatemala for a stay of up to 90 days.


Students from any university or country, regardless of major - graduate, undergraduate, post-baccalaureate or post-graduate - may apply. Applications may be accessed through the field school website: or through the NC State University Study Abroad Office website

Please feel free to contact Dr. Tim Wallace, the program director (, or Carla Pezzia, the assistant director ( for additional information or any type of inquiry about the program at 919-815-6388 (m) or 919-515-9025 (o). Fax no: 919-513-0866; E-mail: The applications are submitted online, but if you have any problems, please contact Ms. Kim Priebe at the NCSU Study Abroad Office, Box 7344, NC State University, Raleigh, NC 27695-7344,, 919-515-2087. The official deadline is February 6, 2009. Applications received after that date will be considered only if there are spaces still available.

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