Venturing into Valladolid

Hi everyone! My name is Michaela Saporito and I am a rising Senior here at Pitt. This summer, I am spending 6 weeks in Valladolid, Mexico, located in the Yucatán Peninsula, as part of the Seminar and Field Trip program run by the Center for Latin American Studies. This program is unique in that instead of taking classes while abroad, each student has the opportunity to design their very own research project on a topic of their choosing and carry it out while abroad. Already in my short time here, I have found that the opportunity to do research and explore independently has led me to talk to people that I wouldn’t have otherwise met and deepened my understanding of the community of which I am temporarily a part in Valladolid.

I am majoring in Linguistics and History, with a minor in Political Science and a certificate in Latin American Studies, and I did my best to combine as many of my interests as possible when designing my summer research. My project here in Valladolid focuses on community language attitudes related to Spanish as well as Mayan, a language that is especially prevalent in the Yucatán, but whose use has been historically discriminated against. As such, I am investigating the language practices and ideologies of bilingual and monolingual university students, as well as looking into a university language revitalization program, and the perceived role of the government in promoting Mayan language and culture.

I chose to participate in the CLAS Seminar and Field Trip program for an array of different reasons. First, while I am not sure if I would like to pursue research in the future, I thought that the opportunity to participate in research completely of my own design would allow me to fully involve myself in the process, and get a better sense of whether it is something I would like to continue. Second, the ability to create my own project has allowed me to delve deeper into something that I am sure I would like to pursue in the future – language teaching! After graduation, I hope to teach English abroad, and so being able to explore the inner workings of a language education program and talk with students about their experiences will provide me with valuable insight related to second language pedagogy.

Finally, I chose the CLAS Seminar and Field Trip program for some of the same reasons that many people choose to study abroad in the first place – to broaden my understanding of the world by immersing myself in a new language and culture. Through conversations and interactions with residents during my time in Valladolid, I hope to improve my Spanish proficiency as well as deepen my knowledge of the lives and values of people here. During my previous travels abroad, I have found that while it is always exciting to see new places, it is connecting with the people you meet that really makes for a meaningful experience. So while I try new foods, explore the history and beauty of the Yucatán, and work on my research, I hope to take every opportunity to connect with those I encounter along the way.

I can’t wait to share more soon, and I am so excited for all that lies ahead! Hasta luego!

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