Oaxaca Participant Testimonials

Katherine Persson

The Oaxaca intensive Spanish experience exceeded my expectations. Not only did I learn a semester of Spanish in two weeks of intense instruction and immersion, I also learned about the Mexican educational system and how to Salsa dance. The wonderful surprise was in bonding with the thirteen other PCC folks that I would not have gotten the opportunity to do so otherwise.

Jennifer Alkezweeny
Jennifer Alkezweeny

Participating in the Instituto Cultural Oaxaca program provided me with a wealth of information and understanding about our students. In my interaction with students at the institute, I was also able to see opportunities for internationalizing the Service-Learning program. The two week program connected me, PCC staff, faculty, and administration from across the district in ways we don’t do on campus. It was a wonderful experience, I highly recommend it. (See Jennifer's video.)

Dominique Millard
Dominique Millard

My time in Oaxaca reminded me of the challenges my own students face here in the US, the disorientation and frustration that accompany being new to a language, culture and country.

I believe this experience improved me as a language instructor, benefited my students, and made me a more valuable member of PCC.

Therese Vogel

My experience at Instituto Cultural in Oaxaca last summer was enriching in more ways than I could have imagined. The excellent language instruction that we received at this well- organized school was only a small part of it. We also had a marvelous immersion into the history (current as well as past) & culture of this unique part of Mexico. But the other unexpected rewards from this trip came from the friendships which were formed with people from other departments and campuses of PCC, none of whom I had met previously. During this academic year, I have had opportunities to collaborate in a few projects with some of my travel mates, which probably would not have happened if not for this trip. I highly recommend this summer program for other PCC staff, as a high point of one's personal & professional experiences.

Michael Marciniak
Michael Marciniak

For me the two weeks in Oaxaca in 2007 was first and foremost about people. The house in which I stayed was headed by Yolanda, who was a superb cook and storyteller, and constantly prodded us (there were a handful of Americans staying with her) to speak only Spanish, at least when we ate together. My conversation partner was a young architecture student named Vladimir, who also was an active participant in the ongoing political struggle in Oaxaca, and proudly showed me his photos and videos of the demonstrations of the year before. His fascinating commentary of the events was totally in Spanish (his English was much more basic than my Spanish). My Spanish instructor was Guadalupe, a 4 feet 10 inch dynamo who made our daily classes demanding but always enjoyable. My fellow students in the class ranged from a skateboarder from California who seemed to have stepped out of “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure” to an older, sardonic graduate student from the East who was on his way to Cuba for research on his doctoral dissertation. Our salsa instructor was a serious weightlifter, a large but superbly graceful man who arrived at class every day astride his roaring motorcycle. And that’s only a handful of the folks I met and studied with and learned from and partied with during a most enjoyable and worthwhile two weeks.

Maria Michalczyk
Maria Michalczyk

All learning is not in books and for adult learners experiential education may indeed have the most impact. When I received the email from the PCC International Department that they were going to fund a two week Spanish immersion program in Oaxaca Mexico for 14 faculty and staff I deleted it. Mainly as I did not believe I had a chance and I also did not want to be a burden on my department. A few days later my boss, Irene Guistini, sent me an email encouraging me to apply for this program as she thought this would enhance the work I do at PCC. I did apply and was one of the lucky 14 who was able to partake in this experience!

The two weeks of Spanish immersion in Oaxaca was an experience of a lifetime. How many adults with busy lives really get this opportunity (as typically this is something reserved for young students). I am so grateful for this experience that PCC provided and not withstanding the chance to learn a language that is so important and relevant to my work. The true opportunity to learn about a very wonderful culture and language (especially Oaxaca) where so many indigenous communities have lived for centuries. This experience placed such a warm feeling in my heart for PCC who saw a vision and were able to send us to Mexico so that we could have a such a rich personal and professional growth. The fourteen PCC staff and faculty bonded, despite our very diverse backgrounds, and understood we were part of a wonderful institution. We were able to share our own jobs and learn from one another about the large complex of PCC and so this way PCC gained something that was irreplaceable: a serious respect and understanding of one another and the admixture of talents represented throughout the PCC organization.

I shall never forget this experience and how this has influenced my life personally and professionally. I work with Oaxacans and it feels so wonderful to say in Spanish (albeit very limited) that I have to their rich and beautiful homeland.

Jana Daugherty

The chance to spend two weeks in Oaxaca, Mexico was incredible. The benefits of this experience—improving my Spanish, learning about Oaxacan cultural traditions, improving my cultural competency—have had a profound effect on me. Upon returning to my work at PCC, I brought back empathy for the challenges facing international and immigrant students and a strong desire to help them access and navigate their educational options. I can now communicate in Spanish with prospective students and their families, and I’m happy to be an integral part of making sure that PCC provides a welcoming and accessible environment to our diverse communities. I’m thrilled to work in an organization that places such a value on diversity and multiculturalism.

Mary Lane Stevens
Mary Lane Stevens

The Oaxaca experience was the first time I got to spend two weeks in one place in the Hispanic world. The topic of immigration reform is much more interesting to me now. I read a good book of short stories, Hard Language by Mike Padilla, about the immigrant experience. I hope for increasing numbers of Hispanic names on my class rosters!

Tamara Williams
Tamara Williams

The one most important thing I came away with was a new understanding for the difficulties our students who have English as their second language experience. I found myself not saying things I was thinking and wanted to contribute simply because it was too difficult to figure out how to say it in Spanish. I wondered how many of our students experience this same type of self-censorship for the same reasons. I am much more patient and understanding now when working with students who struggle to speak English. And, I’m glad to add, I have been able to go on and take more advanced Spanish and conversation classes, and now use both English and Spanish when speaking with my Hispanic students. See Tamara's video.

Diane L. Thornton

As a classified staff member, I came back and was able to share my wonderful memories of the Oaxacan people and the city with PCC students and co-workers. Having the opportunity to stay with a family was a great experience! It provided insight into family life and the culture in Oaxaca outside of the tourist spots. I left Oaxaca with a deeper understanding of where I'm at in my own cultural competence and an increased desire to have intercultural relationships be a constant in my life.

Past Participants

Anthony Greiner (See Tony's video), Cherie Maas, Miriam Friedman, Casey Carter