Traveling on the Field Study

Please note that the information on this page is for general guidance only!

Hopefully the information on this page - compiled from past field studies - will help you to prepare for your fun, exciting and unique trip! Remember that the following are just recommendations, from our experiences and those of past participants, and should not be taken as anything but our advice to you on how to have a successful and enjoyable experience. Please realize that circumstances change from year to year, and the "tips" of students from one year, may not pertain to another year's trip. We intend this page as a useful guide for the current year's participants, but again, these recommendations are to help you prepare for your trip to Mexico.

Surviving the Trip: Tips | Weather | Guidebook

Preparing to Go: Orientation | Packing | Do you speak Spanish? — ¿Hablas Español?

Preparing to Go

You are on your way to Mexico...bien viaje!

CALS Orientation Information
In the past, participants traveling on this field study program had to attend a mandatory orientation session, organized by CALS International Programs. The orientation session provides important logistical information for the trip, such as travel documents you'll need, staying healthy and safe, and how to deal with "culture-shock".

What should/shouldn’t I bring?
First realize that we will be traveling in Mexico during the dry season and thus we should expect limited rain. Please see these sites for expected weather pattern Mexico City, Toluca, Guadalajara and Manzanillo, places where will be be staying overnight.

Also, please do not pack everything you think you might need. Part of traveling is to let go of "stuff" that you don't really need! Let's travel light.  It will make it easier on you to as we will be packing / unpacking almost every night. At approximately half way through the program there will be an opportunity for us to have laundry done for us. Please see more in the Table below for general advice on what to bring.

DO Bring "You Decide" DON'T Bring
    Important Documents and Items
  • Passport (should not expire within 6 months of trip);
  • International Travel Insurance Card;
  • $60-80 in cash (or more) to change into Mexican pesos when we arrive at the airport;
  • Alternatively bring a VISA debit card or credit card for ATM's (referred to as "cajero" in Mexico)
  • Digital Camera and extra memory cards.
  • Plastic boots to wear on-farms;
  • Flip-flops or other comfortable (!) shoes you can get wet and to wear in the evenings when walking around towns;
  • Swimsuit (we''ll be in Manzillo toward the end of the program);
  • Hat (some days the mid-day sun will beat on us!), 
  • Rain poncho or a light rain jacket (It will be the rainy season!);
  • Sweater or a light jacket (in high altitude at night, it gets a little chilly);
  • Jeans, t-shirts and other casual clothes you can wear several times (we do laundry once at at the middle of the program). 
  • Bring travel size whenever possible;
  • Packet of hand wipes (very helpful since there are very few places to wash up after visiting a farm or before eating);
  • Insect repellant;
  • Sunscreen (very important!)
  • Sunglasses.
    Medicines - Bring your own "mini" first aid kit with:
  • Anti-Diarrheal medicine ("Cipro");
  • Pain relievers (e.g., Ibuprofen, Aspirin);
  • Benadryl (antihistamine used to treat allergic reactions (sneezing, runny nose, itching, watery eyes) and motion sickness.
  • Prescriptions (must be in their original bottles to clear customs);
  • Anything you regularly take, (e.g., vitamins).
    Other Useful Items
  • Travel alarm clock and small flashlight.
  • Book or something for the plane and when we are traveling long distances between cities;
  • Bring your laptop (at your own risk) if you plan on (a) staying connected with emails and social media (probably not a goof idea), (b) keeping an (electronic) journal (a good idea), and/or (c) plan on working on your portfolio entries and your photos during the trip (which should be a good idea);
  • Mexico visitor's guide (Lonely Planet or other publishers) can be very handy and help learn about the places (history and culture) of many places we will go through;
  • English - Spanish dictionary;
  • Mobile phone with international service;
  • Dramamine if you get motion sickness.
  • Wearing shorts (especially for women) will make you stand out as a "Gringa." So, if you bring shorts, exercise judgment for when & where to wear them (urban vs. rural places).
  • Van Galder bus tickets: We are chartering a bus to take us to O'Hare the day of departure;
  • Dressy clothing;
  • Jewelry;
  • Excessive clothing - we do laundry half way through the trip;
  • Anything you consider valuable and don't want to lose;
  • Too much luggage - we have a van, your luggage will need to fit under your seat (a medium duffel bag or a 21" suitcase is best);
  • Full-size toiletries - many of the same brands we have in the US are available in Mexico if you need to buy any.

Click here to download the packing list (word document).

Do you speak Spanish? — ¿Hablas Español?

Below are Spanish resources links you may access during the break to build / refresh / improve your Spanish skills:

Surviving the Trip

Tips and Tricks from Past Participants on how to Survive the Field Study

Below we've compiled advice, recommendations, and tips from past field study participants -students just like you - on how they survived the Mexico trip! Their comments range from things you can do to help prepare for the trip to what to do to get the most of the trip while you are in Mexico.

The Language Barrier:

  • “Have a little or even some Spanish background. For me not being able to talk in Spanish and understand what people were saying was a challenge.” ~ Carissa, 2010
  • “If you need to brush up on your Spanish, start earlier than a week before the trip. Maybe take a class in the spring.” ~ Will, 2010
  • “Don’t be afraid to try and use what Spanish you do know – the people are very nice and will help you.” ~ Carrie Jo, 2010
  • “Make sure you’re either confident in speaking Spanish or have someone with you who is.” ~ Lindsay, 2010
  • “Any Spanish knowledge will help….A LOT. A Spanish language book for tourists will go a long way, along with farm/agriculture vocab.” ~ Stephanie, 2010
  • “Know some Spanish and take Spanish classes before you come on the trip. That way you don’t have to need a translator constantly, like I did. Even if it was in high school, it will help you and come back to you as the week goes along.” ~ Ty, 2010

Eating New Foods:

  • “Go out of your comfort zone. Try new foods – THEY ARE GOING TO TASTE DIFFERENT. It’s all a part of the experience and why you travel in the first place.” ~ Ty, 2010
  • “Research the local food specialties in the towns you will visit and enjoy.” ~ Will, 2010
  • “If you don’t like it (the food), hide it! Make the Mexicans happy of the work they put into making you a special meal. They took the time for you, appreciate it!.” ~ Ty, 2010
  • “You are going to have to step out of your comfort zone and try new food.” ~ Carissa, 2010

Packing for the Trip:

  • “Pack your suitcase light so that you can bring back food and souvenirs from Mexico which are a lot cheaper than in the US.” ~ Carissa, 2010
  • "You can buy souvenir for less than $10 dollars or more than $300 depending on your budget” ~ Carrie Jo, 2010
  • “Bring and wear sunscreen, even in the rain. You will get burned otherwise.” ~ Lindsay, 2010
  • “Bring medicine for your stomach, especially Dramamine for the bus rides.” ~ Lindsay, 2010
  • “Bring a big suitcase but pack it only ½ to ¼ full, then you have more room to bring goods back with you.” ~ Ty, 2010
  • “Bring kool-aid, lemonade, or flavored drink packets. You drink a lot of water and the taste gets old pretty quick.” ~ Ty, 2010
  • “Do not even bring your cell phone! It is a good experience to live without it for a week and a half. Also use the internet as little as possible; it will not kill you to live without it!” ~ Ty, 2010
  • “Bring 2 pair of jeans; it is not as hot as you think. Wear pants up the mountain and it will save you from getting bug bites.” ~ Ty, 2010
  • “Bring a digital camera with lots of memory (extra cards if necessary – you can’t find them easily in Mexico). Take lots of pictures to show where you’ve visited.” ~ Ty, 2010
  • “Bring a rain jacket and at least 2 pair of jeans. Rain comes in fast and hard, and nothing says gringo like shorts.” ~ Stephanie, 2010
  • “Bring a pharmacy with you. You or someone near you will get sick at some point.” ~ Stephanie, 2010

Interacting with the People and Places Around You:

  • “Ask questions and pay attention to what is said. You will learn more about life than agriculture.” ~ Stephanie, 2010
  • “Ask as many questions as you can think of.” ~ Carrie Jo, 2010
  • “Do not be afraid to ask questions: the more you ask the more you learn.” ~ Ty, 2010
  • “The places in Mexico are very interesting, but it is really the people that have the value so don’t be afraid to talk to them.” ~ Will, 2010
  • “A helpful hint to think about before the trip is to come up with different questions that you would want to get answered from Mexicans.” ~ Carissa, 2010
  • “Take the time to meet all of your traveling mates: get to know them. Include them in activities and don’t hang out with the same people the whole time.” ~ Ty, 2010
  • “If you bring an iPod, don’t listen to it the whole time, talk to other people that are traveling with you.” ~ Ty, 2010

Getting the Most Out of the Visits:

  • “Go out at night and don’t sit in the hotel. Experience the culture of the city/town you’re staying in – it’s as diverse as the farms we visit.” ~ Carrie Jo, 2010
  • “Read a couple (travel) books on Mexico before going. You have a lot of freedom on the trip so try to find unique places.” ~ Will, 2010
  • “Visit the towns we’re staying in, they are cool to see too.” ~ Lindsay, 2010
  • “Research places in Mexico in the spring before the trip is finalized and find something you’d like to see/visit. It is up to you to make the most of the trip.” ~ Will, 2010
  • “Take an active role in your learning.” ~ Ty, 2010
  • “Another thing that helped me during this trip is that whatever you put into the trip or want to see, that is what you will get out of it.” ~ Carissa, 2010

Changing Dollars to Mexican Pesos:

  • “About 400 dollars is about as much as you will need. Things are a lot cheaper in Mexico.” ~ Ty, 2010
  • “When you buy pesos, get small bills.” ~ Lindsay, 2010

Other Helpful Advice:

  • “The experience may be “loose” and “bumpy” but it will be extremely worth your time and money!!” ~ Ty, 2010
  • “Try everything! Don’t come in with pre-conceived notions about Mexico. Come with a blank mind and experience everything.” ~ Stephanie, 2010
  • “Wait to buy most souvenirs in Guadalajara at the end of the trip, so you don’t have to carry them around and there’s more selection.” ~ Carrie Jo, 2010
  • “READ the binder before the trip and write in it as soon as possible so you don’t forget the details or mix them up with another visit. Everything begins to run together.” ~ Carrie Jo, 2010
  • “Knowing that the living style in Mexico was a lot rougher than in the US helped me to survive.” ~ Carissa, 2010

Weather in Mexico

During the day - hot and humid, often stifling humidty near the coast (beach and Tecoman).

During the night - cool and seasonal.

We will be traveling during Mexico's dry (winter) season, so the likelihood of getting caught in downpours is slim, but let's be prepared!

KeywordsMexico Field Study, travel, tips, tricks   Doc ID56739
OwnerAntonio A.GroupDS 473 Field Study Abroad
Created2015-09-24 22:13:51Updated2019-06-01 10:15:54
SitesDS 473 Field Study Abroad
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