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Summary of Student Evaluations from 2009 Field School

Pre-Departure Preparations
I was very pleased with OSEA’s help in preparing for the program...the directors were regularly available for consultation and addressed all issues that arose before departure. For example, when the drug wars and swine flu became an issue, the directors kept us updated step by step and provided all of the information necessary for us to make decisions. The OSEA website provided all of the necessary information for travel, offered recommendations for air travel, detailed directions through and out of the airport, recommendations and directions to nearby hotels, and very thorough instructions for arriving in Piste. Although this was my first time traveling outside of the US, I never felt lost or confused, thanks to all of the help provided by OSEA.

The directions and information I received beforehand was prompt, personal, accurate, and useful. Considering the circumstances surrounding our pre-arrival period, I feel this was very important, and am thankful for what both of you did.

As far as questions being addressed, I felt that both Sarah and Quetzil were good at responding to questions quickly and thoroughly. I especially appreciated Sarah’s availability on the phone throughout the semester.

Arrival in Piste
The Posada Olalde was a prime choice for lodging the first few nights in Piste. First of all, it was a nice transition to stay in a hotel while getting accustomed to the town, rather than going directly into a homestay. It was nice to stay in the same location as the other students for the first couple of nights in order to get to know each other and to get to know the town together. Also, the staff at the Posada Olalde was extremely friendly and offered lots of advice and tips for our time in Piste. The location was very convenient as well, as it was only a few blocks from the OSEA building.

Home-stays
My own homestay experience was unique even beyond the specific family I was lucky enough to receive. Due to circumstances beyond Quetzil’s control the original plans for my placement fell through and it became necessary to look elsewhere. I was not alone in waiting for a family, but was the last to receive an assignment at the end of the first week. This however was of no consequence because I had both my fellow students to converse with, as well as the director and assistant, Quetzil and Sarah, who were considerate enough to allow me a couple nights stay in their own house while another family was found. In the end I was gifted with a humble, loving, wonderful family.

Seminars at the Tree house
I felt encouraged to participate and as though my opinions were important. I was really happy with the dynamics of the group. The students worked together very well and everyone was very contributive to the discussions. The instructors treated us with respect and took the time to listen to what each one of us had to say. Rather than a teacher/student atmosphere, I felt as though we were all equals, and that we all had the chance to contribute whenever relevant.

The seminars presented me with information ranging from the history of the region to the theoretical concepts of heritage and those applicable to anthropological research. Regular hours set up by Ms. Taylor allowed time for personal assistance while we conducted our projects.


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Doing Fieldwork
I think time management is one of the hardest part of the program but it is what you make of it. You need to be on top of things. There has been a good balance between time together and time for not being together. The group has done a good job getting close but still doing his or her own thing

This experience was one of the most memorable of my life, and, as I hope I have made clear, I haven’t had much to complain about. You were accessible and helpful instructors, and good and thoughtful friends. I could not possibly ask for a better introduction to “doing” ethnography, or to the people of Piste. Thank you for this, and believe me, I not only would recommend your program to others, I already have.

Dr. Castañeda and Ms. Taylor were always available and willing to assist me with any question or concern I had while conducting my research. Ms. Taylor was quick and precise in helping us solve our dilemmas and her contributions were outstanding and invaluable.

The guidance I received for creating and conducting a research project was ample in allowing me to conduct the project I desired.  Everything from the stress of detail on the research proposals, to the time and effort Sarah put in to help me create a survey, to the fact that Quetzil’s and Sarah’s door was always open to offer assistance were all aspects of the OSEA experience that were meaningful on a educational and personal level.  The desire to see the students succeed and enjoy themselves shined from the guidance that was given.

The most note worthy experience was when people who I interviewed really opened up to me and told me very personal stories. At that point I knew that I was making people feel comfortable enough to trust me.

The OSEA program was a great way to start doing fieldwork. I was in a supportive environment yet had the freedom to make my own decisions and do my research as I thought was best. The progression of the classes and close group environment to some group time and some time to work on projects to then just time for our projects was helpful and productive. It was really neat for Queztil to have such strong connections there and for everyone in the town to know somewhat of what we were doing. Piste is an amazing place to do fieldwork. The people are so friendly, open and helpful. It was a great environment to begin fieldwork. It is small enough to not be overwhelming and large enough to have plenty of people to talk to and always have more that could do.


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Fieldtrips
Excursions are always fun – you can’t go swimming too often, I don’t think!  It would have been interesting to have had more excursions in and around Pisté.  I think it was very important that the students were able to have group activities together, in that these helped to emphasize that students were encouraged to be independent, rather than isolated. 

Health (Mental and otherwise!)
The OSEA staff was very caring and understanding during this time, and allowed for me to recuperate. Overall, they seem genuinely concerned with the health of all students, and are very attuned to our needs.

Recommendations
My OSEA experience was hands down amazing.  I had absolutely no clue what to expect from this experience, from Quetzil, from the structure of the program, from the town, or the people, but everything just blew my mind.  First off, I would like to thank Quetzil for the opportunity to meet PIste.  It is a beautiful place with beautiful people.  I would also like to thank Sarah for pushing me to attend the program.  The freedom and encouragement we were given in regards to our project was perfect.  Not only would I recommend the program to people, I feel the way I speak of Piste might increase tourism to the area.  I had an amazing time that I will never forget

I would absolutely recommend the OSEA program to other students.  I believe I benefitted greatly from the experience.  OSEA made it possible to accomplish many things in a short period of time, and presented many approaches to field work in the Yucatán so that students walked away with a much broader understanding of the area, the people, and the possibilities for their own future research – all in addition to a completed research project!  OSEA provides students with an amazing experience as well as the opportunity to do hands-on field research.

My most noteworthy experience was the friendships I made in Chichen Itza.  Everyday I shared laughs and conversations with my friends in Chichen, but we also shared an equal give and take relationship in terms of business.  The acceptance and support the vendors showed me not only added ease to my project, but it made me feel happy. 

The connections that I made to the people in Piste are stronger than I made in any other country. I would definitely  recommend this program to others.

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