Conestoga news

April 6, 2023 6:40 PM

Language exchange program builds intercultural connections

A virtual Spanish language exchange program through Conestoga’s School of Interdisciplinary Studies is helping foster intercultural connections.

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A virtual language exchange program through the School of Interdisciplinary Studies connects Conestoga and UICEH students.

The program is led by language professors Rita Palacios and Betty Munera and builds on a collaborative partnership Palacios and the college established in 2019 with the Universidad Intercultural del Estado de Hidalgo (UICEH) in Mexico. Launched as a pilot project last summer, the program connects Conestoga students from across the college with UICEH students to practice Spanish and English through casual conversation.

“Not only does it provide an opportunity to practice language skills, but it exposes students to global and intercultural understandings through shared experiences,” said Palacios. “Students here and in Mexico face many of the same challenges, just in different contexts. They talk about family and friends, school, music, and even links between traditional holidays.”

Palacios said each exchange session averages around 25 students who gather online to say hello in their own languages before breaking out into groups. A guide was created to help facilitate conversations and instructors from Conestoga and UICEH jump into breakout rooms to help provide additional guidance if needed. There have been five sessions since the program launched, with plans to include more over the summer and possibly partner with other institutions to offer additional language exchanges in the future, including French.

“The sessions are open to all Conestoga students and we have found that they are thrilled to meet not only peers in Mexico but peers from across the college,” Palacios continued. “It has also provided a fantastic opportunity to continue growing our partnership with UICEH.”

The virtual language exchange program was made possible through funding from the Faculty Mobility for Partnership Building Program through Global Affairs Canada’s International Scholarship Foundation.

Located in the city of Tenango de Doria, UICEH is one of 11 intercultural universities in Mexico established to provide access to higher education in rural regions with a mainly Indigenous population. The schools train for economic development through programs based on a model that combines scientific and traditional knowledge and allows for the preservation of culture and languages. Tenango de Doria and its surrounding area is home to Indigenous populations of Hñähñu, Ñuhu, Nahua and Tepehua people.

Conestoga’s School of Interdisciplinary Studies prepares graduates for today’s global economy. Courses and programs have been designed to build skills essential to effective workplaces through language, communication and liberal studies, and practical experience through real-world, hands-on learning.