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Algoma University Students Explore Mayan Culture in the Guatemalan Highlands

Study Abroad program provides immersive educational experience for Anishinaabe Studies students

(SAULT STE. MARIE, ON – April 3, 2023): Nine students, three chaperones, one Algoma University professor, and one visiting professor from the University of North Carolina Asheville (UNCA) recently returned from an eleven-day international experience in Guatemala. There, they completed a third-year course in Anishinaabe Studies, focusing on ceremonial and artistic expressions of several Mayan cultures. This course, designed and taught by Algoma’s Dr. Andrew Judge and UNCA’s Dr. Juan Sanchez (who also acted as translator), was delivered in the Highlands of Guatemala. 

The experience included ceremonies celebrating aspects of the Mayan New Year, land-based teachings around traditional medicinal practices, and visits to sites of natural, sacred, and historical significance. Students were challenged to step outside their comfort zones as they immersed themselves in traditions, sacred fires, and histories of several Mayan cultures including the Kaqchikel, K’iche, and Mam Maya peoples. The group was welcomed and supported by Time Keepers, Healers, Weavers, Musicians and Poets from several Guatemala Highland regions and were even able to experience natural hot spring waters. Together the group was able to form strong connections with one another and the lands and peoples they visited, establishing lasting friendships.

Student mobility is a foundational pillar of Algoma University’s Internationalization strategy, as students who participate in international learning experiences gain invaluable skills and intercultural competencies. International learning is often a transformational experience, as students learn to communicate across different languages and cultures and build self-confidence as they navigate new environments.

This experience was made possible through Global Skills Opportunity (GSO), the Government of Canada’s national outbound student mobility pilot program, which aims to empower post-secondary institutions to increase the participation of Canadians in international learning opportunities. The program has a focus on students with disabilities, Indigenous students and those from low socio-economic backgrounds who have traditionally faced barriers to participation in similar programs. Global Skills Opportunity is an integral component of the Government of Canada’s International Education Strategy and is administered jointly by Universities Canada and Colleges and Institutes Canada. 

For more information about International Learning, please visit the Algoma University website

For more information about Global Skills Opportunity, please visit GSO website.


“Once-in-a-lifetime experience! Grateful for the opportunity from GSO and Algoma University. Learning hands on and feeling an experience is beyond something you can put words to.” 

  • Shawna Mornix, Algoma University Social Work Student

“Having the opportunity to share some of my decades-long learning experiences in the highlands of Guatemala, with a group of students and staff from Algoma University, was a dream come true! The highlight of the trip was swimming together in the middle of Lake Atitlan, one of the most beautiful places on earth. A big thanks goes out to the incredible work of the organizing team, GSO for providing funds, and all the Knowledge keepers who shared their profound wisdom, in Country.”

  • Department Chair, Assistant Professor Dr. Andrew Judge, Anishinaabe Studies

“The impact of this experience is hard to express in words. This was cross-cultural, experiential, and international learning at its best – with a group of students, staff, and faculty who opened their hearts and minds to the experience. A warm thank you to everyone we spent time with in Guatemala – for sharing words and wisdom, and for welcoming us to your spaces and beautiful places.”

  • Dawn White, Director, Experiential Learning and International Affairs

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