Past Participant Testimonials
Jessica Stitt (WSU grad who double-majored in Engineering and Spanish):
I just got a job with Learjet and will be working in the Querétaro [Mexico] facility. I'll be doing engineering work down there working with both people from the community and ex-pats.
I'm excited to finally be using both of my degrees. It's my dream job opportunity!
Diane Wilson, Spanish instructor:
I participated in the summer study program at Puebla in 1973! And our French teacher, Florianne Woods, also participated in the Puebla program back in the "early" years. We both have wonderful memories of the experience!
I absolutely loved and still reminisce of the many experiences I had in Puebla! My Spanish greatly improved after being immersed in the language and culture. I also had the opportunity to connect with such intriguing residents and students from around the United States. I would definitely recommend this program to anyone who is interested in learning and feeling more comfortable speaking Spanish. Plus, making lifelong friendships along the way!
Kevin Brauning (double major in Engineering and Spanish):
I did the Puebla program twice, at two very different points in my college career. The first time, in 2005, was actually my first full time college experience, and it did 2 things for me: my Spanish dramatically improved, and I decided to pursue my second major in Spanish. My second time through the program, in 2008, [. . .] was more about getting the hours completed for my degree, and getting some extra immersion in the language and culture. Both trips really cultured a desire for immersive, rather than tourist style, traveling.
Really, the benefits of the program started adding up the semester after I returned the 2nd time. The two study abroad experiences got me into the pilot program for the Global Design Challenge at WSU, a program that partners WSU engineering students with students at other universities around the world. Those 'global experiences' are really what got me hired in here at Spirit, where I get to run the Global Design Challenge program myself now. Having now worked with and mentored students from 20 countries, I'm grateful for my experiences in Puebla - foreign languages and global experiences are almost mandatory in other countries, and I've now got a good place to start from.
Haley Schrag (dental hygienist student and Spanish minor):
Puebla changed my life in more ways than one. I grew so much while I was there and happened to meet a wonderful man who is still in my life! I'll never forget when you said at the first meeting that we will either fall in love with the city or a poblano, and I never would have guessed this would happen to me! I went back to Puebla for 9 days in January last year, he met me and my family on our family vacation in Puerto Morelos that summer for a few days, and then I got to go for 20 days over this Christmas break! So, it's been hard with the distance but we're making it work. [. . .] We've talked about living there for a while and then coming to live here if everything works out how we hope.
I'm in my second semester of Dental Hygiene school at WSU so I would really like to work as a hygienist in Puebla when I go there.
Jackie King (high school Spanish teacher):
Quiero decirle que sólo tengo BUENAS cosas de ese programa (¡¡asistí cinco veces !!) y lo recomendaría a cualquier persona !!! Me encanta.
I took the trip in 1999 and 2000. I cannot fully communicate the value I gained from my time in Puebla and in the various cities we were able to visit. I tell anyone who asks me how I learned Spanish that it all started to "click" when I studied abroad. The time with the host families and with the acompañantes gave me such confidence. And speaking Spanish became exciting and enjoyable to me from that point on.
The Puebla program was not the only experience I had studying abroad, but it was the most meaningful. It produced the most results in my abilities to understand both the language and culture.
After my studies through WSU, I went on to teach Spanish in public schools for 8 years. I now teach a homeschooling group and plan to continue using my Spanish with my own children as well. The impact of the Puebla program is carried beyond just those who participate.
Artie Cohen (participant twice, from St. Norbert College) wrote:
I wish I could go back to Puebla, but I have some other things I need to do to finish up for my other major [Graphic Design]. If I consider going back and trying to get my masters in Spanish this will be the first place I will apply. Guanajuato was my favorite place too.
[Artie’s sister Kiki also participated twice. She studied at Knox College.]
Amanda Horner (MA in Spanish):
The WSU Puebla program impacted my life! Not only did it provide me an experience that I will never forget--- I wouldn't have the job I have without it [at Conway Springs High School]. It helped build up my fluency and gave me opportunity to immerse myself in the Mexican culture. I met some wonderful people that I will always cherish in my memories and a few that I still have contact with----one of which is now my best friend! I visited ruins that I only thought I would see in textbooks. I dream about returning to Puebla and know that I will because of the WSU study abroad program. The program allowed me opportunity to reach my personal and professional goals. Without it, I wouldn't be where I am. ¡Viva el programa!
Katie A. Holifield:
My advisor in Foreign Language Secondary Education at Auburn University had heard of the program and recommended that I go to improve my language skills and to acquire a few credits towards my graduate degree. I had many friends who tried other programs and came back knowing no more than they knew before their trip, and their Spanish skills had not improved a bit. I would say my experience with the Wichita Program was the polar opposite. I came back feeling much more confident in my abilities to communicate with a native speaker, I had a broadened vocabulary and I had a greater appreciation for the culture that I observed for those 6 weeks (my 3 weeks with the López family were terrific!). The daily outings with the local Poblanos is the bread and butter for the program in my opinion. This is the area where I think I learned the most and an arena for getting one on one help and developing skills and confidence.
The classes were level appropriate (I had the former director as my professor) and the outings and side trips were terrific. After my 6 weeks in Puebla, I went directly to Mexico City to work as a summer intern with a missionary agency. I worked with church groups from the states who were doing building projects for poor communities outside of Mexico City. Most of this time I was the only communication link between the folks from the states and the Mexicans. Before Puebla, I don't think I would have been up to the task but because of my time with the program, I was thrilled to be able to fill this need and I felt confident to go for it!
I am not currently teaching Spanish and although my vocabulary and fluency may have waned, the skills I developed in Puebla have still served me well in other avenues of my life. I have been able to help a native speaker missionary communicate with only English-speaking church members. This brings me great joy. I now live in a community that has a large Hispanic presence and being able to communicate in either language is a huge benefit and almost necessary for survival.
Gregory Blenski (BA and MA in Spanish, WSU):
I attended the Puebla program in the summer of 2007, and I can attest that the program changed my life in several unique ways. My spoken Spanish improved and I feel enriched by being immersed and learning more about Mexican culture; but, in my case these were not the greatest benefits.
Each year, in Spanish classes, during the fall, those students who had attended the Puebla program, would talk about what an exciting, enriching time they had while in Mexico. I did not believe I would ever be able to attend the program [because of work policies]. However, in 2006, my factory was purchased by a company with a policy allowing vacation to be saved one year to be used later. I saved up two weeks of vacation in 2006 and attended the Puebla program in 2007.
What I do feel was unique about my time in Puebla was the fact I was in a group with three female Spanish teachers. We made a conscious decision to truly stick with the policy of Spanish only, except during the hour a day at the hotel when English was allowed. We stuck together in Puebla and during trips to Teotihuacán and Veracruz; I attended church with one of them most Sundays.
The six hours I earned in Puebla put me on track to graduate [with MA in Spanish] in May of 2008. It would be hard to explain how close I felt to a group of four women finishing their MA at the same time without some examples of what we have done since. In Spring 2009, three of the women, their family members, and I spent nine days in Mexico visiting one of their families, attending the baptism of her niece, and touring around in the mountains west of Mexico City. In January of 2010 one of the women had her first baby. In July 2010, I travelled to Panama, and I became the godfather to the baby girl.
It would be impossible for me to envision how my life would be different today if I had not taken advantage of that opportunity.
Even though I am not majoring in Spanish or planning on entering a career in which I will, becoming that comfortable with a language allows you to pick up on any other language fairly easily. I found transitioning from Spanish to French fairly easy to do and because I knew speaking Spanish, mistakes and all, helped me learn I do the same with French. Also, you never know when you could use the skills you pick up while traveling in a foreign country, i.e. circumlocution. Besides that I met great friends and had many memorable experiences!
Lisa Ernest, 4/16/2011:
I first attended the program as a rising sophomore at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. My dear advisor, Nancy Humbach, told me if I wanted to be a Spanish teacher, I needed to study abroad. She was a product of a wonderful program, the WSU Summer Program in Puebla, that could help me learn how to speak Spanish. I was a 20 year old who thought that Cancun was Mexico. I had no clue how Mexico would impact my life over the next eleven years.
Mexico and the WSU program have helped shape who I am. I have attended the program every summer, since 1998, with three exceptions, exactly ten summers. Puebla saw me in stages: first, as an undergraduate student; then, a beginning teacher; later, a graduate student working on her Masters. In 2007, I also started working as the office assistant to the program director, which has given me a deeper appreciation for the intrahistoria of this program: the lives of those that have worked for the program, the lives of those that have participated in the program, the whole tradition and the whole history of the program.
The program touched some students’ lives more profoundly. They now have family members in Puebla, and they couldn't imagine their lives without it. I know of at least six marriages that have come from WSU students meeting poblanos (citizens from Puebla) and falling in love. Of those marriages, there are seven children who are lucky to embrace and know two distinct cultures. Although I am not in that category, I do have a family there that is very dear to me. My namesake, Lisa, just turned five years old. She knows that I am a part of her family and that I live both in Ohio and Puebla. Her parents, Rebecca and Miguel Ángel have been acompañantes for more than ten years with the program. At first, I was invited over for a dessert and, throughout the years, they have taken me in as part of their family.
I am fortunate to have two other families in Puebla: my hotel family as well as my friends. When we arrive each year at the Hotel Colonial, we are instantly greeted with “Welcome home” by the staff. Throughout the years, we have shared stories, solved numerous problems, they have given me thousands of directions and suggestions, and always have a good joke to share. It is so nice to go where individuals take the time to get to know you and pay attention to your needs, including the women who clean our rooms and the waiters. When you participate in this program, you become a part of these families, and that environment makes learning automatic.
My family of friends is the true heart of the program. They are the conversation directors or acompañantes who help make communication possible, meaningful and memorable. With a range in ages, their life experiences offer us different perspectives. We have a structured time to engage with them, getting beyond the surface conversations of everyday life to explore and use Spanish.
In this my tenth year of teaching, I worked with my first exchange between my high school in Ohio and one in Paraná, Argentina. The exchange reinforced the importance of study in another country. While study abroad can be an area of concern especially for parents and for administration, the experience touches the lives of the students forever. Learning occurs at an impressive rate and encompasses so many facets. First, there are the obvious results: improvement in speaking ability, the use of cultural gestures and expressions, plus signs of maturity, confidence or personal development. Then a second level emerges back in the US. It can be vocabulary words that you can suddenly use, or perhaps a personal reflection about your experience.
Lastly, consider the history of this program. In its 44 years, hundreds of students have participated. I urge you to view photos of the program and imagine the impact this program has had on both Wichita State and Puebla.
Before participating in the Puebla program in 2009, I had been studying Spanish for 7 years, starting as a freshman in high school. Even with my background, I still found myself being too nervous to speak Spanish outside of the classroom. Puebla completely changed that.
I was very nervous to take the trip to Mexico. I was 20 years old, and had never been outside of the MidWest, let alone the United States. I remember getting cold feet the night before we left and wanting to cancel the whole trip because I was scared of what might lie ahead. Looking back, I can truly say I’ve never been welcomed more whole-heartedly than I was in Puebla. Everyone was excited to meet us, and I felt like I was instantly part of a family.
Over those 6 weeks, my Spanish improved dramatically. I gained the confidence to use my Spanish in settings I had been hesitant in before. I also developed a love for travel. I am currently a pharmacy student at the University of Kansas, and I am hoping to complete a study abroad this summer in Perú, but this time I will be going alone instead of with a group (something I would have never imagined without having this experience first).
Puebla is an awesome program, especially for someone like me who was a little scared travel to another country. It opened my mind up to the world. I would definitely say I am a different person today because of my trip to Puebla. I went to Mexico to learn a language, but I got so much more than I bargained for. Yes, it was challenging and even frustrating at times when I wanted to just give up and speak English, but all of those circumstances helped me develop my skills, and it was totally worth it. If you’re reading this testimonial trying to decide if Puebla is right for you, quit thinking and just do it! I promise you won't regret it!"
Chasity Dennis-Raz, Summer 2009:
"Going to Puebla was the best experience I had at Wichita State University! It’s been 4 years since I went on my trip and I find myself still telling stories of my experiences there. There was so much that I loved about Puebla but what was most important to me was that it accelerated my Spanish conversation. I went to Puebla a little insecure about my speaking and understanding. When I left I only wanted to speak Spanish! The program is excellent. Everything is taken care of as far as food, room, excursions, and classes. Dra. Myers makes sure everyone is comfortable and happy. She does a great job of making sure that you experience all that Mexico has to offer. I made friends for life in Puebla and travel with some of them to this day. The trip to Puebla exceeded my expectations; if I were still a student I would do it all over again!"
Cassie Hurst, 2012:
"I have so many great memories that it is nearly impossible to pick one, but I think I have to say that my favorite night was our next-to-last night in Puebla. Not only was the food delicious as always, but the mariachi band was one of the coolest things I have ever seen, and most importantly I was surrounded by people who I count as family. Laura, my dueña, is one of the most amazing people I have ever met in my life. From her alone I learned so much, she was so patient with Laura (my awesome roommate and now one of my closest friends). I don't think I will ever meet another person with a heart as kind as hers. That was a night that I will never forget; I had so much fun dancing and singing along with the performers and seeing everyone who made my stay in Mexico so amazing. In a place where I stuck out like a sore thumb, they made me feel at home, and I truly hope I will get to see them all again soon. I love you all!"
An Diep Nguyen, 2009:
I will be graduating with my bachelors in Spanish and Nursing Summer 2013. After graduation, I will be joining a number of students in the Minority Health and Health Disparities International Research Training Program to be trained in nursing research abroad. I will be living in Rome, Italy this summer. Like my summer experience in Puebla, I expect that I will gain much knowledge, experience many things, and meet wonderful people.
LASTING MEMORIES: Everything about Puebla was memorable. I remember the first day we arrived in Puebla, and Dr. Myers and Dr. Akrabova took us to the Zócalo for a mini tour. It was raining that day, but the place was still vibrant and bustling with activities. I enjoy spending my weekdays going on outings with the acompañantes to visit museums, drink Chai frappuccino, buy jewelry and Talavera. I love my dueña, Señora Teresa who was so kind and hospitable. She prepared for us (Haley and I) delicious and healthy meals everyday. Our weekend excursions were all so fun and adventurous. I am proud to say that I have climbed the pyramids of Teotihuacán, visited the seemingly untouched Monte Albán, visited Oaxaca, bought handcrafted vases from Taller de Doña Rosa, and experienced the picturesque city of Tazco. The experience increased my appreciation for Mexico's history, culture, and people. I am very fond of my memories of Puebla, and am proud to claim it as an invaluable experience of my life.
Madison Starns, 2012:
Traveling to Puebla, Mexico last summer was an intimidating choice for me to make because I knew it would be so different than the life I am used to; however, I knew that it was the only way to improve my fluency. It was a great experience to take my first trip out of the country because it was with an entire group that I knew that I could trust and ask questions about situations that I was not sure about. The people (los acompañantes, las dueñas, etc.) that I met were incredibly patient, understanding, kind, and very helpful while practicing the language. Living with a family instead of the hotel was the best choice I could have made! When I went to Puebla, I had taken all of the grammar classes and literature classes necessary; I only had a few extra credit hours to finish my degree. I still had a huge gap between formal writing, how people actually speak, and actually speaking myself. After spending the entire summer only being able to communicate if I took the chance to make a mistake in Spanish, I finally bridged that gap. I still am not 100% fluent, but I can say that I improved 100% in my speaking skills. The journey was challenging at times because it was so far from home and when you can only express yourself in so many words it gets frustrating, but that’s how you learn. I did also learn to plan to spend more money than you think you will, because the little things add up! After experiencing my first big trip outside of the country for an extended amount of time, I cannot wait to do it again. I plan to travel to many more countries now and continue to learn and improve.