Hysteria North and Central America | Community


Editor’s Note: “Huskies Abroad” is a bi-weekly column exploring UW’s extensive study abroad programs with recommendations on select programs and destinations.

Across the Pacific Ocean from Oceania are the American continents. There’s no shame in wanting to travel a little closer to home, especially when you’re looking for a more convenient time zone for calls home. You might say that transferring to an out-of-state university can also be considered “study abroad,” but I want to focus on some of our underrated continental neighbors.

Whether you like snowy or sandy beaches, North America and Central America offer plenty of options for the average tourist. Students, however, will have access to universities throughout North and Central America and the opportunity to learn local languages. Not only will you gain a different perspective on “American life”, but you will also better understand the alignment and influence of the United States on the countries in which you choose to study.


North of the United States is the second largest country in the world with a population smaller than California. Canada is a vast country known for its nature and hospitality, with various opportunities offered by UW to explore the country at your leisure.

The province of British Columbia is close and convenient for those who don’t want to travel too far from Seattle. The University of Victoria is only a ferry ride away and, as the capital of British Columbia, Victoria is an ideal destination to experience Canadian culture and politics. The University of Victoria is British Columbia’s third-largest research institution and Canada’s leading university in deep-sea seafloor observing practices, according to the program brochure. The academic course load at the University of Victoria is similar to the academic programs at UW, so it should be relatively easy to adjust to it as a UW exchange student.

In this exchange program, you may have the opportunity to see the local Butchart Gardens or go whale watching near the island’s ports. From personal experience, I would recommend taking a horse and carriage ride around the BC Parliament Buildings in Victoria. I promise it’s magic.

Would you like to study French in a country outside of France? If so, Quebec City in Eastern Canada should pique your interest. The French language Laval program offered by Université Laval is an intensive course designed for students who are passionate about learning French and its local Canadian variant, Québécois. The program is adapted to the language level of each student and the university campus is close to the city center, convenient for any student-tourist. Walk through the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Old Quebec and learn about the influence of French colonization.

Costa Rica

In the beautiful rainforest country of Costa Rica, there is so much to learn about the land and its people. Costa Ricans have one of the highest life expectancies in the world and also boast a high happiness index. This small Central American country embodies the phrase “pura vida”, which means “pure life”. Not only is it a common greeting among Costa Ricans, but it also speaks to their way of life.

Nowhere is it more accessible to learn about the culture and environments of Costa Rica than SEFS Costa Rica: Natural and Cultural History of Costa Rica, an early-start program designed to immerse students in the culture and habitats local. The program will take you across the country to explore Costa Rica’s tropical ecosystem and learn about the impacts that human activities and ecotourism have on shaping the natural world. This program involves a lot of walking and hiking, but the views you’ll encounter on your journey are worth it. The UW Study Abroad website also guarantees that these hikes through the rainforest and along the beach have a 100% completion rate. Unless you want to be the first person to change this stat, you should have no problem exploring Costa Rica on foot with supportive teachers by your side.


Our neighbor to the south, Mexico, is known for its tasty cuisine, welcoming people and brilliant culture. While beach towns like Cancun are the most notable destinations students travel to during spring break, a trip to Mexico’s lesser-visited spots would help students better understand the country’s culture.

One of the most urban areas of Mexico is its capital, Mexico City. The UW Department of Architecture offers Architecture Mexico: Mexico almost every two years during the spring term. This program highlights the city’s urban and architectural paradoxes compared to other cities in the United States, such as Seattle. According to the program brochure, students will analyze the pros and cons of Mexico City’s recent economic growth, which has resulted in both urban mobility and income inequality. Students will have the chance to engage with locals and take classes in the studio of critically acclaimed Mexican architect Luis Barragán. Learning in the same space that was once occupied by such an influential contemporary architect is sure to be a great experience for anyone.

If you are more interested in learning about people rather than the buildings they occupy, the Spanish program Oaxaca: Windows to Oaxaca – Study of Migratory Impacts on Communities & a Sustainable Development Case Study might suit your tastes better. Instead of Mexico City, you’ll explore the diverse state of Oaxaca. According to the program brochure, one-third of Oaxaca residents speak one of the region’s 16 different indigenous languages. This program requires an intermediate understanding of Spanish as you will live in Oaxacan homes with local families and attend the prestigious Instituto Cultural Oaxaca language school. Through this program, you will examine the migration patterns of indigenous and mestizo populations in Mexico and the current social practices of communities in Oaxaca. You will immerse yourself in the local market and farming culture and also have the opportunity to celebrate Mexico’s Independence Day with the locals. In Mexico, you would be right to expect a thrilling and beautiful experience.


Let’s travel to the country that connects Central and South America: Panama. According to the Embassy of Panama, it is the only country in the world where the sun can be seen rising in the Pacific Ocean and setting in the Atlantic Ocean. Panama is also home to the Panama Canal, the man-made waterway that connects these two oceans. The country is rich in history as a former Spanish colony and trading hub, as well as one of the most biodiverse lands in the world.

The SIT Study Abroad Panama: Tropical Ecology, Marine Ecosystems, and Biodiversity Conservation program will give you the opportunity to explore environmental and conservation issues in the mangrove forests, seagrass beds, and coral reefs of Panama. Instead of standard university housing, this program offers five homestay experiences that will expose students to local Panamanian culture and customs. According to the program brochure, Panama is one of the most important base locations for the United Nations and would also be an ideal place for students to understand the history of Panama through an international lens.

The United States often discounts North and Central America, but every country here is just as worthy of traveling and studying as any of our 50 states. You can choose to explore the snow-capped peaks of Canada or the beautiful beaches of Costa Rica, and you’ll see all that North and Central America has to offer outside of the perspective of Seattle.

Contact columnist Kimberly Quiocho at [email protected] Twitter: @kimberlyquiocho

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