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by Melissa Mejia, student writer

For six weeks, students studied Spanish in Morelia, Mexico at La Universidad Latina de America. “This was the first group study abroad program at HPU,” said Assistant Professor of Spanish, Tess Lane, who added that “the trip was structured and organized for first-time international travelers.”
Laura Sandoval, a senior from Chicago, said she wanted to participate in the program because her teachers had regularly emphasized the importance of studying abroad for a semester. Since she needed to strengthen her Spanish language skills, she felt this was a great opportunity. “I was excited to be immersed in the Spanish language,” Sandoval said. “It was a more hands-on approach to learning.”

Jonathan Rhoades, senior computer information systems major, said that the word Spanish sparked his interest.

Students attended class everyday at the small, private university, located in the south of the city of Morelia. Teachers at the university spoke only Spanish, which forced students to utilize their second language more. “I liked it [the classes] a lot, because the teachers couldn’t speak English,” Rhoades said. “It was strictly Spanish.”

Classes offered during the summer program were Spanish 2100, 2200, and 3200 along with an optional class in Mexican cultural identity. Classes emphasized listening and speaking.

Since the class size was so small, students were able to get a personalized experience. “There were four people in a classroom,” Sandoval said. “We were all comfortable with speaking in class, because we were all in the same level.”

Cultural experiences were an integral part of their learning, Sandoval said. The instructors scheduled regular outside activities which included cooking, poetry, and dance, and on Thursdays, Sandoval said, the students would go out into the town to experience Mexican culture.

Each student lived with a separate host family so that they could better immerse themselves in the culture. “It was better for the students to live separately,” said Lane, “so that they could learn more and receive more attention from their host families.”

Sandoval said she lived with a large family with four girls, who were around her age, and their parents. “It was great to talk to them and learn the Mexican lifestyle,” Sandoval said.

While living with his family, Rhoades enjoyed the food. “They bought pan dulce [sweet bread] for me,” he said, “[and] their maid cooked really well.”

Morelia was the perfect location for students to learn the Mexican language and culture, Lane said. “Morelia is relatively untouched by American tourists,” so the students would be able to experience an undiluted culture.

Also, Lane explained, Morelia is located in the state of Michoacan, in the middle of the country, and the Spanish spoken in the area is similar to that of most Spanish speakers in the United States.

Morelia has a rich history, and is widely popular with Mexican tourists, Lane said. Lake Patzcuaro, a short distance from the city, is home to the Purepecha Indians, one of few tribes never conquered by the Aztecs. They have also maintained they own language and culture.

Students got the opportunity to visit the tribe at Lake Patzcurao. “It was interesting to visit the Purepecha and hear an indigenous language that isn’t Spanish influenced,” Sandoval said. “I learned that there is a lot more richness to the [Mexican] culture than just the Aztecs.”

“ This is a fabulous opportunity to travel to a safe place with a group of HPU students and live abroad for six weeks,” Lane said. Her students agreed that their exposure to the Spanish language and Mexican culture had been a satisfying educational experience.

” I’m a lot more confident [with my Spanish],” Sandoval said. “I can now hold conversations naturally with my family and people at HPU.”

Students interested in the program should call or e-mail Lane at 356-5212, tlane@hpu.edu.
All photos Courtesy Tess Lane and University Relations

a zocallo or square

finishing ceramic projects

mixing clay

Santa Clara de Cobre.


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