Discover the contemporary realities of international undocumented migration and border enforcement and their immense human impact and political and social tension in the context of Mexico, Central America, and the United States.
Start out in Tucson, a major point of entry for undocumented migrants entering the US.
In this area of contrasts, see how citizens are organizing immigrants’ rights groups even as the US government is building up its border enforcement. You’ll learn what undocumented migrants go through on their journey to the US border and what they face once on US soil. What you learn here will provide much of the context for the rest of the semester.
Live in a Mexican state that is the point of origin for many of the migrants going to the US.
The program is based in Oaxaca, a state in southern Mexico with a long history of migration to the United States. Here, you’ll learn how generations of cyclical migration to and from the United States has affected rural and urban communities and how increased border enforcement has resulted in death, disappearance, and separation from family and friends. You’ll travel to different urban neighborhoods and rural communities within Oaxaca to get a nuanced understanding of how globalization and migration affect social groups in different ways.
Understand the factors that lead to undocumented migration.
Discover how international economics, US westward expansion, labor shortages, war, and changes in immigration policy have created very different historical eras in Mexican migration to the United States. You’ll get an understanding of the factors that are affecting Mexican communities now.
Get a firsthand look at two different borders.
Travel to Mexico’s northern and southern borders and see state efforts to restrict human mobility across international boundaries. You’ll learn how these efforts can generate greater levels of vulnerability, including serious human rights abuses, for migrants.
You’ll also examine current trends in border crossing and the rapidly increasing border enforcement strategies, including the growing use of detention and deportation as deterrence. You’ll consider the nature of restricted borders in a globalized world as you study how migrants arrive to the border, what they experience in their efforts to cross, and how current immigration policies are changing daily life in the US for unauthorized immigrants.
See how migration affects Central Americans during a two-day stay in Guatemala.
You’ll travel to a border community in Guatemala to learn about the very different experiences Central Americans face in their attempts to cross Mexico and enter into the United States without authorization. You’ll consider the economic, environmental, and political roots influencing people’s decisions to leave home. You’ll also learn about efforts to formalize Mexico’s southern border and restrict Central American migration through the country and how this has reshaped the landscape for undocumented migrants.
Critical Global Issue of Study
Migration | Identity | Resilience
Three recent semesters of college-level Spanish or equivalent and the ability to follow coursework in Spanish, as assessed by SIT.
Key Topics of Study
Key Topics of Study
- Factors contributing to high rates of undocumented migration
- Effects of large-scale migration on communities
- Gender and family culture shifts as a result of women taking on new leadership roles in Mexico and the United States
- Experiences of undocumented migration and changes in it over time
- Strategies used to enforce borders and how these policies affect borderland communities, border crossers, and transnational communities
- Policy changes that could address the causes of consequences of undocumented migration
The following syllabi are representative of this program. Because courses develop and change over time to take advantage of dynamic learning opportunities, actual course content will vary from term to term. The syllabi can be useful for students, faculty, and study abroad offices in assessing credit transfer. Read more about credit transfer.
- Political Economy of Migration – syllabus
- (LACB3000 / 3 credits / 45 hours)
- This course focuses on structural causes of inequality and migration rooted in national and international economic policies and practices. Students are first introduced to major theories of development that influence economic policy and then apply those theories to a deeper examination of how the global economy affects Mexico. The course narrows its focus from the global level to the national level in Mexico and then to the local level in Oaxaca. As a result, students are able to connect local realities to trends in the global economy. In the latter part of this course, students incorporate emerging studies on climate change, migration, and border enforcement as an additional structural cause linked to international economic policies. Finally, the course brings attention to the rich and inspiring grassroots movements in Oaxaca that are pursuing alternative forms of economic development.
- Migration and Borders in a Globalized World – syllabus
- (LACB3005 / 3 credits / 45 hours)
- This course focuses on the various ways in which diverse individuals and communities are impacted by changes in the global economy and high levels of international undocumented migration. Students examine historical and current trends in migration patterns and consider the different ways economic change and migration affect various sectors of society, such as youth, women, LGBTQ people, indigenous communities, Central Americans, urbanites, and rural farmers. Students are then able to construct a nuanced understanding of migration and how people are responding to its consequences and opportunities. The ongoing development of formalized, enforced borders is also a major focus of this course. Students visit Mexico’s northern and southern borders and learn about state efforts to restrict human mobility across international boundaries while learning how these efforts can generate greater levels of vulnerability, including serious human rights abuses, for migrants. Other excursions and site visits in Oaxaca provide opportunities for students to hear directly from people and communities deeply affected by undocumented migration to the United States.
- Spanish for Social and Cultural Studies – syllabus
- (SPAN2503 / 3 credits / 45 hours)
- Spanish for Social and Cultural Studies – syllabus
- (SPAN3003 / 3 credits / 45 hours)
- Spanish for Social and Cultural Studies – syllabus
- (SPAN3503 / 3 credits / 45 hours)
- In this course, students hone their speaking, reading, and writing skills through classroom and field instruction. They practice reading professional social science literature as they learn the terms and expressions needed to discuss human rights and social movement issues, to conduct field research, and to interact in settings related to the program themes. Students are placed in small classes based on an in-country evaluation that tests both written and oral proficiency.
- Research Methods and Ethics – syllabus
- (ANTH3500 / 3 credits / 45 hours)
- This research methods course is designed to prepare students for an Independent Study Project or internship. Through lectures, readings, and field activities, students study and practice basic social science methods. They examine the ethical issues surrounding field research related to human rights and other program themes and are guided through the World Learning / SIT Human Subjects Review process, which forms a core component of the course. By the end of the course, students will have chosen a research topic or internship placement, selected appropriate methods, and written a solid proposal for an Independent Study Project or internship related to the program themes. All coursework is conducted in Spanish.
In addition to taking the above courses, students will also need to enroll in one of the following two courses:
- Independent Study Project – syllabus
- (ISPR3000 / 4 credits / 60 hours)
- Conducted in Oaxaca or another approved location appropriate to the project, the Independent Study Project offers students the opportunity to conduct field research on a topic of their choice within the program's thematic parameters. The project integrates learning from the various components of the program and culminates in a final presentation and formal research paper.
- Internship and Seminar – syllabus
- (ITRN3000 / 4 credits / 60 hours)
- This seminar consists of a four-week internship with a local community organization, research organization, business, or international NGO. The aim of the internship is to enable the student to gain valuable work experience and to enhance their skills in an international work environment. Students will complete an internship and submit a paper in which they process their learning experience, analyze an issue important to the organization, and/or design a socially responsible solution to a problem identified by the organization. A focus will be on linking internship learning with the program’s critical global issue focus and overall program theme. The internship course includes a module designed to help students build a foundation on which to engage in the internship experience.
Please note that in order to take advantage of dynamic learning opportunities, program excursions may occasionally vary.
Northern Border Excursion in Tucson
You’ll start in Tucson, the epicenter of political, legal, and social struggles around undocumented immigration. This area of the border has seen some of the highest levels of undocumented immigration and thousands of migrant deaths in the desert. The federal government has built up border enforcement in this region while civilians have organized immigrant rights groups and armed border guard militias. Tucson has a long history of social justice work on the border and is famous for being the birthplace of the nationwide Sanctuary Movement in the 1980s.
By beginning your semester here, you will bring important knowledge and experience to your classes and interactions with migrants and other people in southern Mexico and have a better understanding of what border crossing is like for the people you will meet heading north from southern Mexico.
During this time, you’ll meet with people and visit organizations and government agencies involved in border and immigration issues and hear different viewpoints on the border and undocumented crossing from local people and communities. You’ll meet with locals organizing in support of immigrant rights and other issues affecting the immigrant population of southern Arizona, and, if possible, you’ll meet with anti-immigration organizers.
You’ll also learn from immigration lawyers and immigrant detention officials about the legal proceedings for undocumented migrants and LGBTQ asylum seekers and learn how border crossing, cyclical labor, and transnational lives have been altered by greater border enforcement.
Mexico City Excursion
On your way from the northern border launch to Oaxaca, you’ll pass through Mexico City, where you’ll spend three days being introduced to Mexico’s history, culture, and national politics. You will visit the National Palace to learn from famous Diego Rivera murals about the nation’s history, visit the Anthropology Museum to study the rich cultural history the region, and gain an appreciation of Mexico City as one of the world’s great intellectual and cultural hubs.
Southern Border Excursion to Chiapas and Guatemala
Learn from the experiences of Central Americans who face distinct realities in their home countries and who have the added burden of crossing multiple borders to reach the United States. As border and immigration controls in Mexico have tightened over the past decade, crossing Mexico has become much more expensive and dangerous for Central Americans. You’ll meet with local experts, migrants, and migrant shelter workers in Tapachula and visit the border at Ciudad Hidalgo/Tecun Uman.
You’ll observe the informal border crossing and learn about efforts to formalize Mexico’s border with Guatemala. You’ll visit migrant shelters and learn about immigration controls and how they change the landscape for Central Americans seeking to arrive in the United States and learn about human rights abuses, refugee law, and humanitarian efforts in Mexico.
You’ll also cross the border for a two- to three-day visit to a Guatemalan community within two to three hours of the border. Here, you’ll learn from Guatemalans about the causes and implications of migration in their communities and better understand the reasons Central Americans are heading north, and you’ll hear from Guatemalans about grassroots efforts to create viable futures for staying rather than migrating.
Rural Community Excursions in Oaxaca
Experience two culturally, geographically, ecologically, and economically distinct rural communities in the state of Oaxaca. Travel to the drier, corn producing region of the Mixteca Alta and the wetter, coffee producing Zapoteco region in the Sierra Juarez. On these excursions, you’ll compare and contrast the effects of migration on these regions and the strategies that locals are pursuing to create sustainable futures in Oaxaca. Homestays and other cultural immersion activities will be combined with guest speakers and discussions.
The homestay is an integral part of the SIT experience. During your homestay, you’ll become a member of a local family, sharing meals with them, joining them for special occasions, talking with them in their language, and experiencing the host country through their eyes. Homestay placements are arranged by a local coordinator who carefully screens and approves each family. Students frequently cite the homestay as the highlight of their program. Read more about SIT homestays.
You will live with host families for the entire seven weeks you spend at the program base in Oaxaca. You will also have opportunities for homestays during the excursions into rural communities and during the independent period when you are carrying out an internship or Independent Study Project.
Independent Study Project
Independent Study Project
During the final four weeks of the program, you can choose to use your new Spanish and cultural skills and the academic knowledge you have acquired to complete an Independent Study Project (ISP) on a topic of interest to you. The ISP is conducted in Oaxaca or another approved location. You will integrate different components of the program as you conduct an in-depth investigation of a social movement or organization. The ISP is an opportunity to build a solid foundation for further research for a senior thesis, Fulbright fellowship, or graduate school.
- Transnational identities
- Border enforcement
- Migrant rights
- Remittance economies
- Returned migration and cultural reintegration
- “Right to stay” movements for viable futures
- Family reunification
- Gender and migration
- The political role of public art
- Development and displacement
- Transnational social movements
The internship may be completed with a local community organization, research organization, business, government agency, or international NGO. The internship will enable you to gain valuable professional experience, enhance your skills, and deepen your understanding of the social implications of migration through practical experience with people who work on these issues.
Topics and placements may vary according to the availability of each institution. Sample internships:
- Working with migrants
- Assisting local economies projects
- Educating rural youth
- Supporting women’s empowerment
- Helping political art campaigns
- Working with locals to create alternatives to migration
Cost and Scholarships
Cost and Scholarships
SIT Study Abroad is committed to making international education accessible to all students. Scholarship awards generally range from $500 to $5,000 for semester programs and $500 to $3,000 for summer programs. This year, SIT will award more than $1.5 million in scholarships and grants to SIT Study Abroad students.
SIT Pell Grant Match Award. SIT Study Abroad provides matching grants to students receiving Federal Pell Grant funding for the term during which they are studying with SIT. This award can be applied to any SIT program. Qualified students must complete the scholarship portion of their application. View all SIT Study Abroad scholarships.
Tuition: Not yet available.
The tuition fee covers the following program components:
- Cost of all lecturers who provide instruction to students in:
- Political economy of migration
- Migration and borders in a globalized world
- Research Methods and Ethics course on research methods and Human Subjects Review
- Intensive language instruction in Spanish
- All educational excursions, including all related travel costs
- Independent Study Project or internship (including a stipend for accommodation and food)
- Health insurance throughout the entire program period
- Transportation from Tucson to Oaxaca and back and all transportation within Mexico and Guatemala
Room & Board: Not yet available.
The room and board fee covers the following program components:
- All accommodations during the entire program period. This includes during orientation, time in the program base (Oaxaca), on all excursions, during the Independent Study Project or internship, and during the final evaluation period. Accommodation is covered either by SIT Study Abroad directly, through a stipend provided to each student, or through the homestay.
- The homestay (seven weeks in Oaxaca)
- All meals for the entire program period. Meals are covered either by SIT Study Abroad directly, through a stipend, or through the homestay.
Estimated Additional Costs:
Domestic Airfare to Program Launch Site
Domestic airline pricing can vary greatly due to the volatility of airline industry pricing, flight availability, and specific flexibility/restrictions on the type of ticket purchased. Students may choose to take advantage of frequent flyer or other airline awards available to them, which could significantly lower their travel costs.
Books & Supplies: $100
International Phone: Each student must bring a phone with them to their program.
Personal expenses during the program vary based on individual spending habits and budgets. While all meals and accommodations are covered in the room and board fee, incidentals and personal transportation costs differ depending on the non-program-related interests and pursuits of each student. To learn more about personal budgeting, we recommend speaking with alumni who participated in a program in your region. See a full list of our alumni contacts. Please note that free time to pursue non-program-related activities is limited.
Please Note: Fees and additional expenses are based on all known circumstances at the time of calculation. Due to the unique nature of our programs and the economics of host countries, SIT reserves the right to change its fees or additional expenses without notice.