Alumni Spotlight: Jo Ryan


Jo Ryan is from Sydney, Australia. She graduated from the University of New South Wales with a degree in Spanish and Latin American Studies. Currently she works in administration, as well as furthering her studies in Archaeology, which is why she travelled to Mexico and spent a week learning Maya at Na’atik in early Feb 2014.

What made this study abroad experience unique and special?

What made my study abroad experience special was that it was tailored to my needs, I was looking to really immerse myself in the language and culture, and the staff at Na’atik made it happen. They placed me with a wonderful Mayan family, I was able to listen to their language, learn their traditions and take part in their day to day life. Backpacking around Mexico was a lot of fun and I visited some incredible sights, but living and breathing as the locals do allows you to see and appreciate a place from a different, more real point of view.

How has this experience impacted your future?

This experience has enriched my future in a big way. Academically it has fuelled my interest in the Maya language and culture, and I continue to research both now that I’m home. My aim is to continue building my knowledge of the language so that I can communicate with locals and learn more about the ancient and present day Mayas.

My professional development has benefited from this experience in that I’ve gained an even broader understanding of other cultures and communication, demonstrating initiative and an interest in learning to my employers. But most important to me, on a personal level, this experience has given me amazing new friendships and connections that I will treasure forever.

What was the best place you visited outside of your study abroad city?

Outside of Felipe Carrillo Puerto, the best place I visited would have to be Tulum. Just 1 ½ hours away and really easy to get to from Carrillo, Tulum is a Caribbean paradise. Mild, turquoise sea and white sand beaches, it took some serious willpower to come out of the water!

There is accommodation to suit all budgets and restaurants to suit all tastes. I stayed at a fantastic hostel, where the owner took us out on a memorable ‘taco tour’ of the town.

The highlight for me in Tulum was, of course, its magnificent clifftop ruins. The combination of ancient buildings set on a cliff overlooking that jewelled sea was simply magical.

If you could do-over one thing, what would it be?

I would make my stay longer! I experienced and learned so much in such a short space of time, to think what other treasures I would have come across and how much more of the language I could have picked up had I been there longer has me checking return flights...

Felipe Carrillo Puerto first comes across as a fairly quiet, slow paced town, but the more you get to know the community the more you learn, and the people are so friendly and welcoming, so proud of where they live, they want to show you everything. I was taken around the town, to the buzzing market, baseball games, a nearby farm, beautiful lagoons, an amazing seafood restaurant, nightclubs and a Mayan community village...just to name just a few!