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Students who participated in the University of Louisiana Monroe’s study abroad program in Mérida, Mexico, in June took part in a special ceremony as the end of their stay neared.

The group was included in the 45th anniversary celebration of its host language school, the Centro de Idiomas del Sureste (CIS).

In attendance were the founders of the school, Jorge and Chloe Pacheco, the director, Fernando de la Cruz, Jose Pacheco (no relation to the founders), the Supervisor of the Secretary of Education for the State of Yucatan, teachers from all branches of the CIS, host families, the ULM-Mexico group — including its longtime director, Dr. Charles Holloway — and members of the local press.

Holloway is Professor of World Languages in the School of Humanities in the College of Arts, Education, & Sciences.

ULM-Mexico students included, Shelby Cook, Melanie Deal, Colby Glatter, Savanna Gonzalez, Elizabeth Hancock, Emily Healy, Sadaf Helforoosh, Bonnie Hemphill, Ashtin Houghton, Scarlett Lester, Jessica Marvin, Skylar Orozco, Torianne Servais, Luke Vaughn, Amber Waterhouse, along with Mrs. Carol Holloway.

As part of the ceremony, the CIS planted an árbol de la amistad, a tree of friendship, and placed in front of it a sign dedicating the tree to Holloway and commemorating the decades-long relationship between ULM and the CIS, an association initiated by School of Humanities Director, Dr. Ruth Smith.

The CIS had planned the 45th anniversary ceremony to coincide with the ULM group’s visit in order to highlight the special nature of their connection with ULM. The ULM-Mexico program offers students an experience of true cultural immersion.

“Studying abroad is very different from simply traveling to another country as a tourist,” explained Holloway. “Our students live with Mexican host families, take classes in Spanish, and use Spanish each day as they interact with the people of Mérida.”

Such intensive and direct contact with a culture different from one’s own is deeply rewarding and even life-changing.

“I can say without hesitation that this experience changes forever the hearts and minds of the students who participate,” Holloway said.

He attributes much of the program’s success to the careful planning of faculty and staff at the CIS, whose director “consistently goes far above and beyond anything that would be expected in order to ensure that our students have an exceptional experience in Mérida.”

But he also credits the quality of ULM participants, who understand that they are ambassadors for their university, state, and country.

“I am pleased that our students have taken this role seriously over the years, and in doing so, have helped to make possible the decades of friendship between ULM and the CIS,” he said.

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