Thirty Mexican students from Universidad Autonoma de Queretaro and Universitario Tecnologico de Queretaro arrived on campus Tuesday as part of their government’s Proyecta 100,000 (100,000 Strong).
These students, as well as 7,500 other Mexican students, will study abroad in the U.S. this year as part of their government’s recent initiative.
The program, in partnership with the U.S. government’s 100,000 Strong in the Americas, aims to have 100,000 Mexican students studying in the U.S. and 50,000 American students studying in Mexico by 2018.
Guangming Zou, director of the Institute for International Studies, said he was first contacted about the opportunity to host these students Aug. 29. These students are the first group from Mexico to study at Murray State.
After securing housing for students on campus, the University submitted its proposal to accept 30 students into its English as a Second Language program two days after the initial contact.
Zou said while he’s unsure what the outcome of Murray State’s participation in this program will be, it’s a good start for future relations with the country.
“Will this be the beginning of a partnership between Mexico and Murray State?” he said. “That’s everyone’s question, including ours. I do see this as an opportunity and prelude to developing an institutional relationship.”
All of Murray State’s contact has been with Mexico’s Ministry of Education. But with the Mexican students’ arrival this week, along with two professors from these universities, Zou said a direct dialogue between the schools can now begin.
Murray State first experienced the effects of the 100,000 Strong in the Americas movement last semester when five students from Panama studied here as part of their country’s Martin Luther King Jr. “I Have a Dream” program for students from poorer socioeconomic backgrounds.
Since President Barack Obama introduced this program between the Americas, the exchange of students between countries has not only increased, but the number of government-sponsored programs with similar goals such as 100,000 Strong has as well.
Half of Murray State’s approximately 1,100 international students come from either government-sponsored programs, most notably through Saudi Arabia, or are individual students who apply online or through recruiting agencies. The other half is made up of students from the University’s partner campuses in, for example, China and South Korea.
Despite record international enrollmment, Weihong Gao, ESL Associate Director, said original projections indicated there would be a shortfall of students this semester, specifically from those studying in the ESL program.
“Almost all of our partner universities across the board sent a fewer amount of students this year,” Gao said. “At the beginning we were expecting a much deeper cut (in enrollment), but this loss was made up for by a large number of Brazilian students who enrolled this semester.”
Of approximately 80 Brazilian students studying at Murray State, 30 are enrolled in the ESL program. These students’ education is also sponsored by their government and private business as part of the Brazil Scientific Mobility Program.
Zou said in the future Murray State will see even more students studying here from South and Central America as part of this growing trend.
He has begun negotiations with Panama’s Ministry of Education to bring teachers wishing to teach English to the University in May.
“The world is flat,” Zou said. “Years ago we talked about a flat world and that’s something people did not understand scientifically, and now, metaphorically, people are saying that the world is flat and becoming smaller and smaller. When we bring lots of diversified groups to campus, that’s part of your education. You see what the outside world really is.”
Story by Ben Manhanke, Staff writer