by Alexandra Melnick
Although Dr. David Wood, associate professor of Spanish and chair of the modern languages department, is fairly new to campus, he is quickly becoming a recognizable figure at Millsaps for his quick wit, crazy Spanish jokes, and zest for travelling. He is going on a study abroad program for the whole next Fall semester—to Yucatan, Mexico! (And, of course, invites students to come along with him.)
This stint abroad is small potatoes, however, compared to a two-year long trip to Spain he took when he was 18—Wood is fond of telling wide-eyed students that he was only able to speak to his family twice a year during this period. The Purple & White sat down with Wood to learn how his perspective on travelling and life is crucial to his passion for teaching the Spanish language.
The Purple & White: So, what did you think of your first time in Yucatan?
Dr. David Wood: I had no idea what to expect from the Yucatan when I was invited to go there in 2014. I had not researched the place nor had I worked on any writers or texts from the Yucatan. I knew there was a strong Mayan presence there and had read a book years ago on the Caste Wars. That was about it. What I encountered was what I would term an “event,” an experience that changed my senses and attitudes toward Mexico in general. What I was struck by was the diversity of history, people and place Yucatán offered when contrasted with the rest of México.
P&W: What is your favorite place in the Yucatan?
DW: I’m always first impressed by people rather than places. It’s the people I’m most curious about—how they function in their culture, what makes them tick, how they see and configure the world in their own skin and language so different from my own. Secondly, favorite is such a reductive word—only one choice among so many possibilities? How can I pick a single place to call favorite in Yucatán? Maybe the cenotes? Beaches? Plaza Santa Lucia? Paseo Montejo? Mayan Ruins? LA 68 casa de culture? La Negrita?
P&W: What is your favorite part of traveling?
DW: Meeting people and engaging with them.
P&W: What are you most looking forward to for the Yucatan semester?
DW: I’m looking forward to spending a longer time there to get to know the people and place better and deeper. I’m looking forward to the courses I’m planning to teach and to introduce students to Yucatán.
P&W: What advice do you have for students nervous to study abroad?
DW: The best way to reduce travel anxiety is to prepare. Research the place and its people, plan, study the language and history, etc. Knowledge about the place will alleviate lots of stress.