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Hope Students Pursue Studies in Mexico

by Professor Lorna Hernandez Jarvis
Photos Courtesy Professor Neal Sobania

While many of us are reading for another exciting academic year, some Hope students have already commenced their school year. Such is the case for nine students who are enrolled in the "Hope in Mexico" semester program. They will be living in the city of Queretaro with host families until December, while attending classes at the Universidad Autonoma de Queretaro (Autonomous University of Queretaro).

These students,led by professors Neal Sobania and Lorna Hernandez Jarvis, arrived in Queretaro on August 3rd. Both professors stayed with the students for 10 days providing one week of orientation, supervising the beginning of the program and reviewing program goals with our UAQ colleauges.

During the first two days, students became acquainted with the city, visited surrounding towns, experienced not only a new language but new foods, new perspectives, a new culture. Two days after their arrival they met the host families.

The first week included a daily intensive Spanish class, two hours a day of program orientation, visits to museums, churches, historical sites, art exhibits, a performance of French folk dancing from Brittany, and lots of walks to become familiar with the city. They also spent time with their host families, which included some family parties, dinners, and other social events. One student has already celebrated a host sister's birthday with a family party.

This first week was full of adventure and hard work. Beginning with the time when they were all anxiously waiting for their host families to pick them up at the University. At one point a bright yellow mustang approached the building, and many of the students loudly expressed their wish that was the car picking them up. Of course only one of them was the lucky one. They all had the opportunity to taste a traditional Mexican dish "barbacoa" (goat). They all insisted they would have enjoyed the dish much more if the butcher would have not been right next to their table cutting up a goat preparing it to be cooked. A few days later the host family of one of the students offered her some "barbacoa" for dinner. She reported to professor Sobania that the second time was much better. The reason was that "it tastes much better when you don't have to see the dead animal being cut-up".

Many of them were quickly learning the subtleties of the language, such as saying "yo estoy muy bien" (I am well) rather than "yo estoy muy buena" (I am good looking). Another student reported a day after living with her host family that her father was a mariachi singer (cantador), only to find out her mistake hours later. Her host father was a contador (an accountant), not a cantador (singer). Incredible how much difference a vowel can make!

By the end of the first week many of them felt they needed a dose of English and decided to go see an American movie. They had been told that all movies (American/Hollywood) are in English with Spanish subtitles. They were terribly disillusioned when it turned out the movie of their choice, "Final Fantasy," was actually dubbed, not subtitled! But they all said they were able to follow the basic story. There were plenty of adventures for just one week.

All the students are already making the best of their experience in Mexico. There will be much more! During the semester they will be taking Spanish grammar classes, composition, oral practice, language practicum, a course on life and culture of Mexico, a course in research methodology, and will complete a field placement or field project of their choosing supervised by an anthropologist from the University of Queretaro. Many of the students were already exploring possible sites or topics for their projects. The program also includes several excursions to other parts of Mexico, including Oaxaca, Mexico City, and the pyramids of Teotihuacan.

Professor Hernandez Jarvis gave two public lectures in response to a request by officials of the University of Queretaro that she share her research expertise with the student body of that institution. The first presentation was titled "Una mente y dos lenguas: Los efectos del bilinguismo en la cognicion" (One mind, two languages: The effects of bilingualism on cognition). This lecture was well received by the 70 or so undergraduate students and professors present. The second presentation was directed to the students and faculty of the graduate program on languages and linguistics. The title of the presentation was "Los efectos de la similitud fonologica en el uso de la exclusividad mutua en niņos de edad pre-escolar" (The effects of phonological similarity in the use of the mutual exclusivity principle in pre-school aged children).

Hope continues to develop an increasingly strong relationship with the sister city of Holland, Santiago de Queretaro and in particular with the Universidad Autonoma de Queretaro (UAQ). Not only do our students participate in this program abroad, but many other exchanges are happening such as dance performances, art exhibits, and research presentations. The next exchange between our universities involves the visit of the modern dance company Grosso Modo to Hope's campus on October 18-20, 2001 as part of the Great Performances Series.


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