Morgan State University in Oaxaca!
“1867, forever engraved as a milestone in American history and noted as the birth year of Morgan State University, has come and past as a great year. With it have been various legacies and traditions. It is always amazing to be recognized as the “first” anything! Studying abroad with Sol Education Abroad and Morgan State University’s Spanish Professor, Dr. Lisa Gunn, has been an amazing experience! Knowing that we as a group, and in collaboration with many hardworking individuals, have become a first, shows that Morgan State is always growing and steadily progressing. This opportunity has shown me that your financial situation does not have to dictate what you can and cannot experience. It has shown me a larger scale of humanity and put me in touch with various emotions……”- Alisha Johnson (Morgan State University student, Sol Education Abroad alumni , Oaxaca, Mexico – Winter Break 2011).
Sol Education Abroad: Study Abroad & Spanish Immersion – dedicated to providing students with an enriching and rewarding educational experience. Morgan State University: providing opportunities of higher education to all people, regardless of their socio-economic status. Historically Black College or University (HBCU): an educational institution established before 1964 with the intention of serving the education of the Black community.
Education, it’s in the name. Education is the catalyst that conjoins and propels these three entities. The desire to educate in an effective, individualized and affordable way is the prominent thread that Sol Education, MSU & HBCU’s share. About 35% of MSU student enrollment comes from outside of their native state, Maryland, and a large portion of the students from Universities outside of the US. With this international enrollment it is a surprise that the Morgan State Bears haven’t yet had the opportunity to embark on an overseas academic adventure. In 2011, they did.
Lead by MSU Spanish professor Dr. Elizabeth Gunn, 13 students, boarded a plane to Oaxaca, Mexico (pronunciation: [wa?xaka]), where they spent 2 weeks immersed in the beautiful and culturally rich world of south Mexico.
With almost 2 decades of experience, the Sol Education Abroad directors, US & overseas, created the very first Study Abroad program for MSU. Every aspect was carefully designed, not only to be splashed with Oaxacan culture, but to bathe in it, really absorb it. Carefully planned and perfectly executed by experienced directors, Sol Education Abroad created a 20-day adventure completely catered to what these students and faculty needed: Spanish classes for Morgan State credit, ability to use student financial aid, cultural activities, excursions in and outside the city, room & board with a local Oaxacan family (all meals), plus so much more.
Sol Education Abroad chose Oaxaca City as one of their Spanish immersion locations, because of its unique cultural life and reputation, prestigious University, and geographic location. It is located in the southwest region of Mexico, approximately 1,500 miles (2,400 kilometers) away from the disheartening violence and fear of the US & Mexico border towns and northern regional towns. Oaxaca is an oasis that harbors a beautiful, happy and welcoming culture. The city attracts people for many reasons, such as its fundamental archeological sites, native culture, crafts, etc. The state of Oaxaca also has some of the greatest biodiversity in Mexico. For example, the area near the town of Mitla was recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2010 in recognition for the “earliest known evidence of domesticated plants in the continent.”
The history of this Mexican town serves for an amazing educational location. Settlements started in Oaxaca around 1200 BC and like most regions, over thousands of years it has endured and catapulted through it all: various indigenous rule, Spanish conquistadores, the Mexican War of Independence, political and military struggles, a brief intervention of French imperial forces, the Mexican Revolution and multiple natural disasters. Unfortunately, Mexico’s current status has temporarily marred the economy in Oaxaca City, amongst most of Mexico.
Originally envisioned to be based in Oaxaca City, Sol Education Abroad was founded under the principles of promoting cultural understanding and the lifelong study of foreign languages. It is with these principles that Oaxaca was chosen as one its’ premiere location, because it bestows everything needed to fulfill all components of SOL’s mission: international education, language learning and cultural immersion. It is a safe, southern space for students and travelers to indulge in some of Mexico’s many wonders: people, language, food, geography, mountains, coastline, beaches, etc.
Sol Education Abroad creates experiences based on their core values for cultural immersion & Spanish language, and inaugurates the wants and needs of their individual participants and partnered schools. The Morgan State group had a chance to do and see it all:
In the mornings the students attended class at the University of Oaxaca, with small, very intimate classes, taught by professors native to Mexico. The students could choose any Spanish Language Class equivalent to their level (Beg I thru Adv II) or an elective course, Contemporary Mexico & Mexican Culture and Civilization. The University of Oaxaca boasts an extensive offering of Spanish Language & Elective courses for all levels and interests.
Of course there were city tours, an introduction to the Santo Domingo Church & Museum, a visit to the Monte Albán ruins, and Latino dance classes (mixture of Salsa, Merengue & Cumbia). On one weekend the group embarked on a trip to the Sierra Norte Mountains for a hiking experience, learned a bit of traditional Oaxacan cooking in a hands-on cooking class and even participated in one of the wonderful Volunteer & Community Service Projects organized by the SOL resident director. They also had the chances to visit the Tlacolula market and the ancient Teotilan Artisan village. There were many workshops, shows, dinners, hikes, tours, and of course, local host family time.
What does this mean for the University?
Since 1867 Morgan State has set been “setting the bar” for humanitarianism. It first trained young men in the ministry, which later transitioned into educating both black women and men. In its early years, music phenomenon, Andrew Carnegie, donated a large sum of money to help with construction and solidify the purpose and meaning of this institution. In 1939, the state of Maryland realized it needed to provide more opportunities for its black citizens. It was landmarks like these on MSU’s timeline that only reemphasized their goals, beliefs, and principle mission. In 1975 it was granted University status, and only continues to not only grow in itself, but to aid in the personal and educational growth of its students. These students are its community, its life.
Sol Education Abroad is extremely proud to have had the opportunity to integrate its education abroad expertise, and personal & educational values with those of Morgan State University. We are very honored to have gotten to provide them with yet another colossal landmark in personal and educational growth on their already, monumental timeline.
… – Alisha Johnson continued “……..The greatest lesson I have learned, is to follow through. Just because you may not understand how something will come to be does not mean you cannot work actively towards that goal or its completion. I have come to realize that the only difference between you and the rest of the world is the exact path taken to get to where we are now but at the end of the road, we are humanity. I would certainly encourage Morgan State students to participate in this program and others like it because a humbling experience can never hurt but it can always heal. 2011 marked a new milestone in our Morgan State University history and we can only venture further into success by ensuring our students are granted the opportunities and resources to partake in such lucrative, enjoyable and thrilling experiences.”