VIVA Mexico!: Leadership and Empowerment

Make history and join us on our inaugural Honors Study Abroad experience to Mexico!  The Burnett Honors College will offer a unique leadership and service-learning experience working with young adults learning English in the state of Chiapas, Mexico. The program leaders are Dr. Alvin Wang (Dean of The Burnett Honors College) and Dr. MC Santana (Director of the Women's and Gender Studies Program).

This program will introduce students to the culture, language and traditions of Mexico while also helping youth build empowerment through a Big Sister/Brother and Little Sister/Brother program.  A desire to help others and be active in sports is encouraged but not mandatory. Knowledge of the Spanish language is not a requirement for this program.

The primary Service Learning project will involve working with the English language program ACCESS which was developed by our partner La Universidad Autonoma de Chiapas in San Cristobal de las Casas in the state of Chiapas (Southwest), Mexico.   ACCESS primarily services indigenous youth between the ages of 14-20 years.   Our service-learning program will involve matching a TBHC student to an ACCESS student during the spring course as well as the time in country in a Big/Sister-Brother and Little/Sister-Brother program. The second Service Learning project involves a partnership with the non-profit organization She Wins Mexico as an after school soccer/basketball program. She Wins Mexico encourages girls to stay in school and to believe in themselves and their ability to succeed in life.

Other projects focus on maintaining school buildings and gardens in the indigenous community of Tuzantán and San Cristobal de las Casas. ACCESS works in this neighborhood as well. TBHC students will be able to meet Mexican students via SKYPE prior to traveling.

We may develop additional projects based on the interests and backgrounds of our participating students.  For instance, we welcome ideas for service-learning projects involving disciplines as diverse as engineering, health care, business, anthropology, and education.


Student Eligibility


Each year, TBHC selects on a competitive basis up to ten Honors students for participation in this program.  All majors are encouraged to apply. Eligible candidates must be University Honors or Honors in the Major students in good standing who will not graduate prior to Summer 2017.  Students are selected on the basis of their academic achievement, campus and community involvement, evidence of initiative-taking, and their commitment to engaging in study-abroad as a transformative experience. Knowledge of the Spanish language is not a requirement for this program.



Program Costs

The cost of the program includes airfare, in-country ground transportation, lodging, most meals, and some excursions. The total program cost for UCF Honors students is $2,000 depending of scholarship eligibility (see below).  Students should bring some pocket money for snacks, non-group meals, and souvenirs during our excursions.  In addition, students must pay tuition for the 1-credit hour course IDH 3955H that is scheduled for the spring in preparation for summer travel.  Please note that while unlikely, the program cost is subject to change due to changes in airfare and exchange rates.

Participating students will enroll in the 1-credit hour service-learning course during the Spring and Summer A semester (IDH 3955H.0202, class number: 20194 ). This class counts as an interdisciplinary seminar for Honors graduation and will have regular class meetings during the spring semester in preparation for the trip that will occur in Summer A.  In spring, the class meeting times are MW 10:30-11:45 in BHC 131.  In addition, there will one or two required, follow-up class meetings toward the end of the summer.   All charges will be posted to your UCF student account by the Office of International Studies. 



The trip will be two weeks long and we are tentatively scheduled to depart Orlando on June 9 with a return date of June 25.  We will travel as a group for our international flights as well as in-country excursions.  Students must find their own transportation to and from Orlando International Airport.  Weekend excursions will include the following in Mexico City: the Citadela Market, Chapultepec Park, Frida Kahlo Blue House and Museum, National Museum of Anthropology, Zócalo, Teotihuacan Pyramids and Shrine of Guadalupe, and the following in Chiapas: Palenque Mayan Ruins, the Santo Domingo Market in San Cristobal de las Casas, Sumidero Canyon, San Juan de Machula Church/town and Agua Azul Cascades.


Important Dates

    October 24 -- 12 noon application deadline (bring material to the front desk of Honors)

    October 31 (week of) -- group interviews

    November 10 -- acceptance letters are sent to students

    December 5 -- 12 noon deadline for students to accept offer

    January 9 -- classes begin   

    June 9 -- depart from Orlando International Airport   

    June 25 -- return to Orlando International Airport

    July xx -- class meetings (dates tba)

Class Meetings

During the spring semester, class meetings will be held from 10:30-11:20 am on MWF in BHC 131. In addition, there will be a few class meetings in the summer after the group has returned to Orlando.

Honors Study-Abroad Scholarships

President's Scholars

Honors students who meet the requirements listed below can apply for the President’s Scholarship.  This scholarship has two award levels depending on program costs.  For South Africa, the scholarship award is $2,000.  For Nicaragua and Mexico the scholarship award is $1,000.  To be eligible for a President’s Scholarship, applicants must meet the following requirements:

  • President's Scholarship has not been awarded before.
  • No more than 80 credit hours completed by the end of the spring semester prior to travel.
  • Minimum overall GPA of 3.6 (freshmen grades will be looked at in December)
  • 500 word essay commenting of the following quote from Paul Theroux: “Tourists don’t know where they’ve been, travelers don’t know where they’re going.”


The President’s Scholars scholarship program is made possible in part by the generosity of the Sonny’s Endowment for the President Scholars Program and the Yarmuth family.


Honors Short-term Study Abroad Scholarships

Honors students who are not eligible for the President’s Scholars Program can apply for a $500-$1,000 Honors Study Abroad Scholarship. These scholarships are awarded competitively and the award amount depends on program costs.



Click here for more information about the application process and the application form.

Resource Links

CIA Factbook, Mexico

Mexican newspapers by region

Anthony Bourdain Visits Mexico (CNN)

Under the Volcano by Anthony Bourdain

Diplomacy in Action, U. S. State Department, on Mexico

Sites in Mexico

She Wins Mexico, our non-profit partner in Mexico, (Look under September 13, 2016 with our visitors from UCF and UNACH) and also her profile at


Mexico's Fun Facts

Número 1: The country of Mexico is composed of 31 states, thus the name Estados Unidos de Mexico (United Mexican States).

Número 2:  Mexicans do NOT celebrate Cinco de Mayo.  The actual Mexican Independence Day (El Grito de Dolor) is September 16 each year (not May 5).  El Grito marks the Mexican War of Independence by Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla in the town of Dolores Hidalgo.

Número 3: The jaguar is a native mammal of Mexico.  So is the Chihuahua--an eponymous canine from the Mexican state where it originates.

Número 4: Mexico’s beautiful city cathedral (the Metropolitan Cathedral of the Assumption of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary into Heaven) was built on top of a sacred Aztec precinct near the Temple Mayor. Its construction took over 200 years. The cathedral is the largest in the Americas and sits in muddy subsoil (lake basin) which has accelerated its sinking in present time.

Número 5: Mexico has 62 indigenous languages.  At least twelve of these languages are still spoken in the State of Chiapas.

Número 6: Mexico is number one in the world in reptile biodiversity with 707 species.


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