Erick Merced Urbino Martinez is studying to be an engineer, so he enjoyed a recent visit to the Toyota Manufacturing Plant in Princeton, Indiana, to watch robots assemble new cars. The trip was a highlight of the four weeks he spent at the University of Southern Indiana this fall, but he wasn’t there to hone his engineering skills.
Martinez and 23 other students and faculty members from Mexico took an Intensive English course at the Glenville campus as part of Proyecta 100,000, the Mexican government’s initiative to have 100,000 citizens studying in U.S. colleges and universities by 2018.
“English is essential in Mexico to get a (good) job,” said Martinez, a 22-year-old student at the Universidad Mexiquense del Bicentenario. “Being here, speaking and learning in a real American school, encouraged me to improve my skills.”
USI was one of several U.S. colleges selected this year to host Proyecta 100,000 students, who receive scholarships funded by the Mexican government. Many have never visited the U.S. before, and the goal is to increase the students’ English-language skills and knowledge of American higher education and culture.
At USI, participants lived in apartments on campus, attended daily English classes and visited area attractions, including the Garden of the Gods nature site and the Holiday World amusement park.
"The education and classes are better here."
Claudia Cisneros Ramirez, a 26-year old UMB graduate student, said USI differs from most Mexican universities in several ways, including size.
“It’s bigger than my university, and it’s beautiful,” she said. “The education and classes are better here. The English program was very helpful, and I’ve met some students who are really nice.”
Program participants served as cultural “ambassadors,” cooking Mexican food for students and faculty members and performing Mexican folk dances at a Day of the Dead program.
“The students are very engaged,” said Terry McIntosh, a staffer for USI’s Intensive English Program. “We have learned as much from them as they have from us. Overall, it’s been a very positive experience for all.”
After getting a taste of life on a U.S. campus, many of the Proyecta 100,000 students are thinking about returning full-time. Carlos Rodriguez, who had never before traveled outside Mexico, found USI to be “a whole new world.”
“I’ll miss the people, the campus, the teachers and the new friends,” Rodriguez said. “I’m looking for a scholarship to come back to USI.”
PHOTO: Students and faculty members from Mexico spent a month at the University of Southern Indiana this fall. (USI Photography and Multimedia)