Oaxaca: Mexico in Latin American Civilizations

Student sitting and enjoying view of the Pyramid of the Moon

Program Term:


Language Requirement:



 Naira Ovsepyan

Application Deadline:


The University of Chicago’s Winter quarter Oaxaca program provides University of Chicago students with the unique opportunity to study Mexico’s role in Latin American history and culture in Oaxaca, a city established in the late 15th century as an Aztec stronghold, then occupied by Spanish conquistadors in 1521. Today, Oaxaca is a colorful, modern city of a half-million inhabitants and a cultural center of extraordinary ethnic diversity.

    At the center of this intensive, ten-week program is a three-course sequence taught in English by a combination of Chicago and local faculty, which follows Latin American history from pre-Columbian to modern times, with a focus on Mexico. In addition to this sequence, which meets the College’s civilization requirement, students take a fourth course in Spanish language, taught at the appropriate level and designed to improve their access to the surrounding community. Excursions to sites of historical interest both within Oaxaca and elsewhere in Mexico are designed to complement classroom work and give students a sense of Mexico’s rich history and the interplay between the traditional and the modern. Students are expected to treat this dynamic city as their fifth course, engaging it as they would an assigned text.

    Program participants are housed with host families, allowing students an intimate view of Mexican domestic life. Appropriate families are selected based on a detailed Housing Questionnaire. During their stay, students are expected to function as a full member of the household, eating meals with the family and participating in the normal social activities of the home.

    It is important to recognize the cultural context of student housing in Mexico and understand that the amenities of the homes may vary. Although some of these differences may take some getting used to, remember that cultural differences extend to all aspects of your experience abroad. Having realistic expectations for your term in Oaxaca will help you approach the study abroad experience with a positive attitude.

    Participants in the Oaxaca program remain registered as full-time students in the College. They take and receive credit for four courses: the three courses in the civilization sequence and the Spanish language course. The civilization sequence meets the College’s civilization requirement. Students who have already met this requirement may use these courses as electives. Their use, partial or total, in a program of study (major) must be approved by the undergraduate chair of the respective major. The language course will normally count as an elective. This course is neither keyed to Chicago’s Spanish language sequences nor equivalent to any specific on-campus course.

    Study abroad students pay regular College tuition, a program fee, and a nonrefundable study abroad administrative fee. The tuition and program fee are paid in conformity with the home campus payment schedule, and the nonrefundable study abroad administrative fee is submitted when accepting a place in a program. Precise figures for the Oaxaca program during the 2024–2025 year are listed below:

    Winter tuition: as set by the Bursar’s Office

    Study abroad administrative fee: $675

    Oaxaca program fee: $5,960

    Program fee includes:

    Out-of-pocket expenses include:

    • round-trip airfare to and from the program site
    • passport/visa fees
    • transportation on site
    • meals
    • course materials
    • personal entertainment and travel
    • communications (including cell phone usage)
    • health insurance and upfront payments for care
    • other miscellaneous expenses 

    Previous program participants report spending in the range of $50 to $100 per week on meals and incidentals while on the program, though frugal students may spend less, and others could spend much more. Bear in mind that while the cost of living in Oaxaca is relatively low, it is also possible to run short of money if you are unwary. It is therefore essential that you budget your funds prudently, apportioning your resources so that they last for the duration of the program. If you are planning to travel before or after the program or on weekends, you should budget accordingly.

    Study abroad students retain their financial aid eligibility. For more information about financial aid resources, please see our Tuition, Fees, and Funding section.

    The Oaxaca program is open to University of Chicago undergraduate students only. Applications from outside the University are not accepted.

    The program is designed for undergraduates in good academic and disciplinary standing who are beyond their first year in the College. While the program stipulates no minimum grade-point average, an applicant’s transcript should demonstrate that they are a serious student who will make the most of this opportunity. Because the civilization sequence is taught in English, there is no language prerequisite, although students are encouraged to take Spanish on campus before the program begins.

    Because of the considerable demand for the Chicago civilization programs abroad, no student may participate in more than one of these programs. Each application is examined on the basis of the student’s scholastic record and personal statement. If you are interested in applying for this program please fill out the online application.

    To discuss the Oaxaca: Mexico in Latin American Civilizations program and the possibility of participating, please contact Naira Ovsepyan.