International Business & Language Program, Cancun Mexico

 Cancun sign

**photo courtesy Weiying (Salina) Wang

What an experience!

Now home after our two-week program, the luggage has been unpacked, the photos are downloaded, and it’s time to reflect on what this trip gave to us – an immense opportunity, provided by both Centennial College and the Universidad Tecnologica de Cancun, for one very lucky group of students to learn a little bit of the Spanish language, quite a lot of Mexican culture & heritage, and exactly how important International Business relations is to both Canada and Mexico.

Throughout the week, our days began with three hours of Spanish language instruction, provided by the loveliest woman I think I have ever met, Maria.  Once Maria realized that for most of us, the only Spanish language skills we had were as a result of childhood viewings of  Dora the Explorer, she quickly adapted the curriculum to suit our skill set.  It may sound silly, but she made learning Spanish easy and fun by using flash cards, charades and games of ‘Loteria’, a bingo-style game that used boards we created with our new vocabularies and dried beans as playing pieces.  Sacapuntas!  A great example of how adapting a program to suit the learning styles of students can be successful!

After Spanish class, depending on which day of the week it was, we had either a Mexican history class or a Mexican cooking class.  Our Mexican history and culture professor, Brenda, was also extremely warm and welcoming to all of us.  We began our studies with a history of the indigenous peoples of Mexico, and then the invasion by the Spanish Conquistadors,  finishing with the culture of present-day Mexico, and an amazing final class in which Brenda came in full traditional dance regalia and taught us all how to salsa!

Cooking classes were fantastic in that they ended with the class feasting on our creations – dishes such as chicken with mole sauce, tamales (using both banana leaves and corn husks), and the most amazing drink made from Swiss Chard!  Our last class had us creating hot peppers stuffed with chicken and fruit, topped with pomegranate, coriander and a white sauce which made our plates resemble the Mexican flag – Salud!

On a few afternoons, our gracious hostess Rosa accompanied us on a variety of excursions – we visited the Mayan Museum, an open-air market containing practically everything anyone could ever want to buy (including the most amazing kitchen sinks!), and business tours of very posh local hotels (tourism is the leading industry in Cancun, after all).  Rosa was also instrumental in arranging a couple of days off for us, so that we had the opportunity to explore other areas of Cancun at our own pace.

It was an amazing journey, and many thanks to all of the people at Centennial College’s Global Experience Office who made it possible.  I would also like to thank Rosa, Brenda, Maria, Regina, Marianne, Gladiel, Adriana and everyone else in Cancun who truly made us feel at home away from home – I’m hoping you’ll come visit us here in Canada soon!

Melissa Beynon

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