Central College Abroad, a partner of Holy Names University Study Abroad, offers a rich learning experiencein Mérida on the Yucatán peninsula. At their comfortable “Casa Central,” they welcome U.S. language students who come for a semester of study, placing them in classes appropriate to their proficiency level. Although Spanish language fluency may be their first goal, students also study the history of Mexico as well as the art and literature of Latin America. Students are immersed in the Spanish language, and experience the Mayan culture in a safe and welcoming environment.
As the Holy Names University Study Abroad Coordinator, I was invited to visit the program by its director Valerie Grimsley. At the beginning of October, 2011, I spent eight days in the Casa Central, attending classes led by excellent teachers andtaking my meals with the students.
The school provides opportunities for students to acquire experience working with communities in need. I visited Indemaya, a governmental organization that serves Mayan people. Students of Central College help with translations from Spanish to English.
Central College students are encouraged to discover the beauty of Mérida’s many cultural events and sites. Handcrafts and local products are sold on Sunday in the Plaza Grande, a park located in the heart of the city. Many stalls sell all kinds of crafts, candy and beautifully embroidered huipiles, blouses and shawls. On Thursday evening, the square of Santa Lucía hosts the traditional “Serenade of Santa Lucía.” Valerie invited me to attend the event andlisten to Yucatecan singers and enjoy traditional dances. Attendees of all ages sat under the stars on a perfect temperate evening to listen to romantic boleros and the skillful guitarists of Yucatan.
Central College is affiliated with Universidad Marista de Mérida (also known as the Marist University of Mérida), and some Central College students takeclasses at the university.
I also visited “Amor y Vida,” a non-profit organization that helps abused and abandoned children. Central College students volunteer there as tutors, helping children with their homework.
Mérida is at once old and modern, and it is full of life. Music can be heard everywhere on any given day. Free concerts, dances, museums and galleries contribute to a beautiful education environment.
Strolling in Mérida, I was captivated by its beautiful mixture of styles: pre-Columbian, colonial and modern. I encountered students from all over the United States who are studying Spanish in this tranquil, historic city in southern Mexico.
From the Winter/Spring 2012 edition of HNU Today Magazine.