Eight Fort Hays State University students who enrolled in the Summer-in-Mexico Program will spend four weeks of their summer in Guadalajara, Mexico, as international exchange students, June 12-July 11.
"I wanted to get into a study-abroad program for a long time," said Jennifer Mayers, Great Bend junior. "I didn't want to leave for a semester though, since I'm a resident assistant at Agnew and I just recently got engaged. Since this is only one month though, I thought that would be enough time to do it in."
The annual exchange comes as part of the friendship between FHSU and the Universidad Autonoma de Guadalajara, the oldest private university in Mexico. UAG is an internationally recognized institution that has awarded more than 12,000 United States physicians with a degree.
"The university is very Americanized," said Dr. Paul Siegrist, assistant professor of modern languages. "The institution realizes that its students will have interaction with our students. The university then will profit not only financially, but culturally. Students there will be able to see what Americans are like first-hand."
Students will observe and learn about Mexico through language and culture classes held from 8:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. Seven hours of course credit will be given for the classes.
Language courses will be divided into seven different levels. The first five will cover the history of the Spanish language and focus on developing language skills. Level six is "Introduction to Mexican Literature" and seven is "Mexican Culture."
The culture classes will be taught in English since they will cover topics such as the pre-Hispanic cultures of Mexico, Mexican folklore, marketing and globalization of the country and Mexican works of art from the 16th-20th centuries.
Activities such as movies, shopping, sports, concerts, cultural sites and the Mexican Cooking Club will be available for students after classes end each day.
To enhance the multicultural experience, the classes will also have other international students enrolled -- Asian, French, Canadian and other students will share classrooms while studying Mexican culture.
While in Guadalajara, students will stay with selected local families.
"This type of experience allows learning from every aspect," Siegrist said. "You're learning all of the time and you learn every aspect of things that you generally don't get in a class -- idiomatic, youth language and slang. You are able to take the components in true context."
The city of Guadalajara itself is a cultural experience in its diversity. Colonial buildings stand next to glass and steel structures and horse-drawn carriages share the street with sleek cars.
Siegrist said that on the way to school, students will see familiar businesses like Seven-11, Blockbuster, SAM's Club and McDonald's next to typical Mexican stores.
The last three days of the summer program will be spent in Mexico City touring museums and visiting historic ruins.
"To me, the most exciting thing sounds like the field trips," Mayers said. "We're going to take one to Mexico City and visit the ruins and ancient temples. We get to take another field trip to Tequila and look at the plants. That sounds like fun to me."
"Many of the students choose to stay in the country after the trip is over," Siegrist said. "I think that shows how much they get out of it."
"I hope that students are able to expand their linguistic and cultural horizons," he said. "Hopefully they become ambassadors when they come back."
Students who will go on the exchange are listed below by hometown.
GREAT BEND: Jennifer Mayers, junior.
HAYS: Richard Dorzweiler, senior; Jackie Feldt, junior; Linda O'Neal, sophomore.
LIBERAL: Bindhu Madathil, special student.
OBERLIN: Annie Castle, graduate student.
RUSSELL: Mikell Johnson, senior.
SCOTT CITY: Lauren Frank, senior.