Student cohorts in the Proyecta 10,000 program pose in front of the Peter MacKinnon Building.

U of S welcomes Mexican summer students

A new language initiative is bringing Mexican students to the University of Saskatchewan this summer to help them learn English.

By Lesley Porter

Proyecta 10,000 (Project 10,000) is an ambitious program that aims to have 10,000 Mexican learners studying English as a second language (ESL) in Canada by 2018. Funded by the Mexican government, it was born out of a similar proposal with American universities—Proyecta 100,000—with a goal to attract 100,000 Mexican learners to pursue ESL studies in the United States by 2018.

Twenty students arrived on the U of S campus June 12 to start the ESL course held at the Language Centre, located in the Williams Building on Cumberland Avenue. The program concludes July 15.

In addition to the obvious learning benefits for the students, the program bolsters relation- ships with other institutions and communities while contributing to the university’s overarching inter- nationalization mandate.

“Programs like this will enhance the diversity that we, as a university, would like to have,” said Alison Pickrell, director of enrolment and student affairs.

“It’s also part of building stronger academic and research relationships between Mexico and Canada while providing realistic opportunities for Mexican students and faculty to interact with our campus, and foster future relation- ships and connections.”

These types of relationships may also encourage Saskatchewan students to undertake education experiences in Mexico and elsewhere, she added.

Additionally, connections and partnerships may also exist between post-secondary insti- tutions in Saskatchewan and Mexico, in their shared commit- ment to Indigenous populations. In addition to fostering international diversity, Pickrell said she is thinking about what else Mexican students, and post-secondary relationships between the two countries, can bring that is relatable to our community.

“The Mexican post-secondary sector is having similar conversations to those we’re having here,” she explained, adding that although the history and experiences are varied, the impact of imperialism on Indigenous populations is acknowledged in both countries. “We’re both talking about reconciliation, inclusion, Indigenous student success, and incorporating Indigenous ways of knowing and learning in the curriculum and institutional culture. There are definitely opportunities to learn from one another and develop productive collaborations in this area.”

On June 19, a welcome lunch was held for the visiting students. Edgar Martinez, a former ESL student and current U of S graduate student in the College of Engineering, spoke about the challenges he faced when he moved to Saskatoon from Mexico City in 2012 to begin his ESL studies.

“A big part of it was just culture shock—it’s completely different from Mexico,” he said, noting that the changes in food, weather and people were a lot to deal with.

However, the support he received from the Language Centre and his ESL cohorts helped him adjust. He completed his master’s degree and is now pursuing his PhD in mechanical engineering.

“You have the opportunity to share with people from a lot of countries,” he said. “You can see different ways of thinking, different perspectives and you make friends with everybody.”