Mérida, Yucatán — A Mérida English Library program that pairs local university students with native English speakers is in its fifth year.
Universidad Autonoma de Yucatán (UADY) second-year students are being offered the chance to participate in the One World/Two Languages program, spending 20 hours over several months in a cultural and language exchange with native English speakers.
MEL is recruiting volunteer hosts among its members.
University life is a challenge for many young people here. Immersing the students in the language, the MEL/UADY program replicates study-abroad programs that are out of reach for most students here.
Students attending the public university are often the first in their families to receive higher education.
Hosts and students have four months to accumulate 20 hours together. Most of the students take Saturdays to spend time with their hosts, shopping together, playing games, cooking, attending cultural events or any other workaday activity. Students keep a journal with reflections on language and culture.
For MEL members who are interested in being hosts, it is preferred that they have their own transportation, otherwise activities are limited. Most students commute by bus. Hosts are expected to be flexible with their time, since most students also have jobs and family obligations.
MEL is looking for hosts who live in Mérida. It will be impractical for residents living at the beach or a remote location to take part in the program.
Hosts will be financially responsible for extras like trips to the symphony or lunch out. But students will pay their own bus fare to meet their hosts.
Smoking, alcohol and drugs are prohibited during their visits. Many students do not know how to swim, so caution must be exercised around pools. Students should not spend the night at a host home. Topics such as politics and religion should be avoided when spending time with your students.
The program will begin in November and participants must be committed through the winter.