Mexico: Health Studies

Program Snapshot
Semester: Fall, Spring, or Full Year
Offered: Annually
Estimated Dates:  Fall: Early August to early December, Spring: Early January to late May
Program Focus: Language Intensive / Public Health
Prerequisites: Minimum of 2.5 GPA. Completion of Spanish 321. Students must satisfy the Words and Numbers CORE requirement before participating in an overseas program.
Housing: Host Families

Campus Contacts:

Jerusha Detweiler-Bedell - Professor of Psychology,, 503-768-7506

Program Design

In cooperation with the Institute for Study Abroad (IFSA), this program provides language intensive academic and experiential learning through a rigorous curriculum comprised of university courses and program-specific courses, with an additional focus on public health.

The IFSA program offers students the opportunity to take classes at the Universidad Autónoma de Yucatán (a major public research university) as well as a mandatory Community and Culture course and Spanish language courses for those at the intermediate level (determined by a written and oral language evaluation completed upon arrival).

Students also take part in a specialized academic concentration focused on Public Health. This opportunity offers students in-depth exploration of the subject by completing coursework on Public Health and life sciences at the university, and working with local health professionals in rural and urban settings to examine traditional and non-traditional approaches to health care.

In addition to the academic coursework, students can choose to include a semester-long not-for-credit volunteer experience ( in local schools, community organizations, NGOs, local clinics and hospitals, local cooperatives, museums, etc.) as part of their weekly schedule.

Program Location: In Mérida, Yucatán, students explore how Mexico balances 21st century realities with the enduring influence of the pre-Hispanic Mayan empire. Through the Mérida Universities Program, which includes multi-day excursions to Mexico City and San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas, students interact with complexities of the local culture and learn how the Mayan influence is threaded differently throughout Mexico.

Onsite Staff: The Resident Director of IFSA Mérida is Rodrigo Diego Rivera Hernandez. Rodrigo holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México and a postgraduate program in cultural affairs from the Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana. The Student Experience Coordinator is Valeria Guemez Graniel. Valeria earned her master’s degree in public policy and administration at the Center for Research and Teaching in Economics (CIDE), building upon her bachelor’s degree in social anthropology at the Autonomous University of Yucatán.


Requirements Fulfilled:

General Education - This program fulfills the Global Perspectives general education requirement for students who successfully complete 8 or more semester credits.

Minor Requirements: This program also provides credit toward the Health Studies minor. (The exact amount depends on courses taken).

Major/Minor Requirements: This program also fulfills the overseas study requirements for the Hispanic Studies major, the World Languages Major with Spanish as the primary language, the Hispanic Studies minor, and the Latin American Studies minor. (Please note: Hispanic Studies majors are still required to take at least 8 credits directly applicable to that major; consultation with a Hispanic Studies advisor is strongly recommended).

Credits: Credit earned varies based on courses completed, but students may earn up to 19 credits. Overloads are not permitted.

Curriculum: Students take courses (3 credits each), all taught exclusively in Spanish, comprised of the following:

  • IFSA Contemporary Issues in Public Health in the Yucatan (3 U.S. semester credit hours): As part of the course, students will participate in all Hoy En Tu Comunidad (UADY student organization with public health focus) field projects or do a service project at UADY’s Unidad de Inserción Social. Students will also visit a Mayan community to meet a midwife, a bonesetter, and an herbal doctor, among other related activities.
  • 1-2 Health-related courses at the UADY (3 U.S. semester credit hours) which may include:
    • Sports medicine
    • Clinical psychology
    • Tropical diseases
    • Nutrition
    • Medical anthropology
    • Nursing
  • IFSA Advanced Spanish course (3 U.S. semester credit hours)
  • IFSA’s Exploring Community and Culture program (3 U.S. semester credit hours)
  • 1-2 additional courses at the UADY (3 U.S. semester credit hours)

Excursions: The excursions are all designed to include a rigorous academic dimension, in tandem with the Community and Culture course. The program includes 2 day-trip excursions to nearby archaeological sites, Uxmal and Chichén Itzá. The program also includes 3 multi-day excursions. The first is to a small Mayan community 2 hours east of Mérida, Yaxunah. During the excursion, students stay with local families and engage in various workshops with local families and in particular local youth (14-25 years old) around issues of higher education and local sustainability efforts. The second excursion is a trip to San Cristóbal de Las Casas, Chiapas, where students visit nearby indigenous communities and learn extensively about the cultural history of the region. The final excursion is to Mexico City, where students visit many museums, cultural sites, and gain an understanding of the diversity and complexity of Mexico as it is embodied and represented in the capital city.

Student Life

Housing: Students stay with local families in the Járdines de Mérida neighborhood where the IFSA office is located. Only one student stays with each family, and all meals are provided. Given the local customs around extended family, students regularly interact not only with those family members they live with (often including adult children), but also extended family during regular family gatherings. The vast majority of the families have been hosting IFSA students regularly for at least 5 years.

Extracurricular Activities: In Merida, Students participate in Cultural events and excursions, including a multi-day excursion to archaeological sites, Mexico City and San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas

Students enjoy free evening concerts and a thriving nightlife in a student-friendly atmosphere


2023-2024 Fee Breakdown*

Total Fee (includes Tuition, Program Fee, and Health & Wellness Fee): $39,385

Tuition: $30,958

Program Fee: $8,390

Health & Wellness Fee: $37**

Included in the program fee are room/housing, board/meals, and administrative fees. Not included are airfare, passport and visa expenses, primary insurance coverage, photographs, books, immunizations, and incidentals. 

*Fees are updated every February for the following academic year.

**The Health & Wellness Fee supports the operations of Wellness Services staff in delivering pre-program orientation services, as well as in providing health-related consultation regarding participant health needs. All students in the College of Arts and Sciences pay a mandatory fee of $37 per semester.

Stipend: Students will receive a stipend to cover the cost of meals and transportation costs not covered by the program fee.

Estimated Airfare (Round Trip PDX to MID): $400-$700

Estimated Health Insurance Fee: $1,943.50

All students participating in overseas programs are automatically enrolled in iNext, a supplemental travel insurance program. The fee for iNext is covered in the program cost. However, students are also required to have comprehensive health insurance during their time abroad. All students participating in overseas programs, both abroad and domestic, are automatically enrolled in the College’s student health insurance program. Similar to a regular semester on-campus, students participating in overseas programs may waive enrollment in the student health insurance program if they have other comprehensive health insurance (e.g., through a parent, guardian or employer) that 1) provides coverage for them in the geographic region in which they will be studying and 2) includes mental health benefits. Click here for more information regarding health insurance & overseas programs.

Program Preparation

Application Process: This program has a dual application process. Student must first submit a Lewis & Clark Application. Once admitted by Lewis & Clark, the students will receive instructions for submitting their secondary application to IFSA and will receive a separate notification letter of admittance. Please keep a digital copy of your essays and other application materials as you will need to submit these similar materials to IFSA. Please note that this secondary application process can be as late as the semester preceding your scheduled participation.

For more information about the application process, click here.

Travel: Students usually fly into the Mérida International Airport (MID), where they are met by IFSA staff and transported to orientation.

Visa: More information will be provided upon admission to the program.  

Country-Specific Health Information: Click here to view specific health information for people traveling to Mexico.

State Department Country Information: Click here to visit the State Department’s Mexico page.

Mérida, Mexico