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Pop is Proud of Kekchi Heritage

Pop is Proud of Kekchi Heritage

Only about 500,000 people in the world speak the Mayan language called Kekchi and University of the Ozarks junior Marcelina Pop of Belize is proud to be one of those native speakers. This past summer she was able to put those skills to use as an interpreter in an immigration case.

Pop, an English and psychology major, is from the southern Belize community of San Pedro Columbia, a village of about 1,200 people and the country's largest settlement of Kekchi. The community is known for its hand-woven embroidery that dates back to the peak of the Mayan civilization in 900 A.D. Most of the population of San Pedro Columbia came to Belize from the Petén region of Guatemala in the late 19th century.

“I grew up in a small, rural Kekchi village with chickens in the yard, cacao drink in the making and women slapping clothes on slabs of rock by the river banks,” Pop said. “The elders emphasize speaking Kekchi more than the younger people in the community. My parents are very traditional in the sense that they always, always speak in Kekchi at home. Almost everyone you meet in my village either speaks Kekchi or, at the very least, understands Kekchi.”

Pop was asked to interpret this summer by an attorney in Northwest Arkansas for an immigration case on the Mexican border involving a child separation of a family from Guatemala that only spoke Kekchi. The attorney found Pop through U of O Spanish Professor Dr. William Clary's connection with the court interpretation network in Arkansas.

Pop was able to assist the family through several phone conferences during the summer and was paid for her interpretation services.

“When Dr. Clary asked me if I would be willing to assist on the case, I was surprised,” Pop said. “It was wholly unexpected since Kekchi is a native language and very few people speak it outside where I’m from. I knew from the moment Dr. Clary asked that I would do it because it isn’t every day that I can use my language to provide assistance. It was a privilege to serve as an interpreter, even though it was a difficult situation for the family. I only wish that the circumstances would have been different.”

Pop said that growing up in San Pedro Columbia, she spoke Kekchi at home and learned English in school. She rarely gets to speak Kekchi when she's at the University.

“I only speak Kekchi when I call my parents back home and sometimes when my friends would ask me to say something,” Pop said. “I have had a couple friends who wanted to learn some words in Kekchi, but they quickly gave up since, according to them, it was such a throaty language.”

Pop said she chose her double major in English and psychology because she “wanted a balance between what I’m passionate about and what would challenge me. English is more of a hobby and psychology is a challenging interest." She plans to pursue a career in educational or social psychology.

Whatever career she chooses, Pop said her Kekchi heritage will always be a big part of her life.

“My culture instills core values of humility and industriousness, which speaks volumes in how we treat people,” she said. “If you were ever to visit any Kekchi house, you would surely be offered a hot cup of cacao drink and our famous dish, Caldo with poch. I'm just very grateful for and proud of my Kekchi heritage.”

In an informal survey conduct by Clary, he found approximately 30 native languages spoken on the U of O campus by students, faculty and staff. Those languages include Moroccan Arabic (Darija), Indonesian, Malay, French, Karen, Javanese, Swahili, Georgian, Lingala, Kikuyu, Kinyarwanda

Mashi, Jamaican Patois, Azerbaijani, Shona, Kaqchikel Maya, Haitian Creole, Portuguese, Japanese and Uzbek.

"That's quite an amazing aggregation of languages for a school of around 850 students," Clary said.

University of the Ozarks Professor of Spanish Dr. William Clary has published a review of renowned Salvadoran novelist Horacio Castellanos Moya’s latest book for Latin American Literature Today (LALT). The review of the 2018 novel, “Moronga,” appears on the LALT website,, as well as in the February edition of its magazine. Clary said he first became aware of the writer’s work in the early 1980s when he purchased Moya’s first collection of short stories in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. “As his production as a novelist began to proliferate after 2000, I began to follow him, always finding his work fascinating,” Clary said. “Last year, when he published ‘Moronga,’ I decided to take it on as a project. The book review for LALT is just a part of the project. I have presented a paper on the novel at a conference and am currently finishing a much longer critical article on the novel for publication.” Clary, who has taught at Ozarks since 2006, was instrumental in bringing Moya to the University in 2014 to speak as part of the Walton Arts & Ideas Series. “I believe Horacio Castellanos Moya is one of the most creative narrative voices in Central America today,” Clary said. “His work tends to focus on the latent and persistent traumas from the period of the 1980s, which still haunts many Central Americans today, either as residents of their home countries or members of the large Central American diaspora in the U.S. today.” “Moya’s is a powerful and piercing voice of memory that references the horrors of war that consumed the isthmus and how they remain in the minds of so many who were first-hand witnesses to this tragic decade in Central American history. Yet his work also deals with the demoralization and disenchantment that have also subjected Central America to the equally devastating problems of gangs and the drug trade, major problems of the postwar period which persist, alongside widespread poverty, in the conflicted region.” A former editor of news agencies, magazines and newspapers in Mexico, Guatemala and El Salvador, Moya has published 12 novels, five short story collections and two essay collections. In 2014 he received Chile's Manuel Rojas Ibero-American Narrative Award. Currently he teaches creative writing and media in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese at the University of Iowa.With colorful macaws flying in formation overhead, the growls of howler monkeys echoing through the jungle and surrounded by walking palms — Tolkienesque trees that get its name from its tall, spiny root system that looks like multiple legs — Cherokee Gott found herself in disbelief as she stood in the rainforest of the Bolivian Amazon. “I kept thinking over and over, ‘I can’t believe I’m here right now,’” said Gott. “I’m from a small town in Oklahoma and I had never even been on a plane before, much less travelled outside of the United States. This was all so new and exciting to me.” Gott was one of 15 University of the Ozarks students and faculty members who took part in a 15-day study abroad trip to Bolivia and Peru in January. The trip was the capstone of a multidisciplinary Fall 2017 Semester class — Study Abroad: Bolivia and Peru — that examined the culture, language, history and agriculture of the region. The upper-level class was taught by Dr. William Clary, professor of Spanish, and Dr. Kim Van Scoy, professor of environmental studies and sustainable agriculture. The highlights of the trip were visits to the Madidi National Park in the Bolivian Amazon, the highlands of the Andes Mountains and the World Heritage site of Machu Picchu. Like Gott, a sophomore environmental studies major from Claremore, Okla., it was the first significant trip abroad for several of the students on the trip. “When the plane took off from Miami, that is when it really hit me that I was doing what I had always dreamed of doing since I was a kid; I was travelling the world,” Gott said. “The whole trip, from the time we landed in La Paz, Bolivia, to flying over the Andes Mountains, hiking in the Amazon and standing on top of one of the Seven Wonders of the World at Machu Picchu, was an amazing adventure. It was extremely difficult to convey my thoughts in my journal because I could not come up with the words to explain the uniqueness and beauty of the land, people and experiences.” Clary, who has organized and led numerous study abroad trips to Central and South America, said students learn on multiple levels during a trip like this. “Certainly exposure to societies and cultures with complex economic challenges gives them needed perspective on how most of the world lives,” Clary said. “Student growth also occurs as they begin to understand that traveling like this is feasible, that one can do these kinds of trips without the guiding hand of a travel agency. Finally, by experiencing Bolivian and Peruvian culture up close in different contexts, students acquire both knowledge and deeper understanding of intercultural differences and historical traditions outside the United States.” Van Scoy added that a trip abroad is the ideal “cure for racism and prejudice.” “I think the students who travel to Latin American countries learn first-hand how generous and gracious our neighbors to the south are,” Van Scoy said. “In Bolivia, we were shown tremendous generosity from the second poorest country in the hemisphere. Lessons like that stick with students.” Bordering Peru, Madidi National Park encompasses an area of 1.9 million hectares of South American rainforests, glaciers and Andean peaks. With more than 1,000 bird species, 12,000 plant species and 2,000 vertebrates, it is considered one of the most biodiverse spots on Earth. The Ozarks contingent spent four days and three nights staying at an indigenous eco camp deep in the Madidi rainforest—a six-hour boat ride from the nearest city. Local guides led the group on several educational treks through the jungle. “To experience life in the jungle and to see and learn about all of the different plants and animals was an experience I will never forget,” said Deborah Sebagisha, a sophomore chemistry major from Rwanda. “It was definitely a once-in-a-lifetime experience.” One of the highlights of Madidi was an opportunity to visit a remote, off-the-grid indigenous village in the Amazon rainforest, the Quechua-Tacana community of San Jose de Uchupiamonas. The group toured the village and was invited to have lunch with a local family. “I learned that the happiest people in the world are the ones that seem to not have a lot. The perfect example of this would be the members of the indigenous village,” Gott said. “Our guides were amazing and they always seemed to be smiling and joyful. When we visited the village, the people were extremely friendly and welcoming.” Sebagisha agreed that the visit to San Jose was impactful. “The people of the village didn’t have a lot, but they wanted to share the little that they had,” she said. “I would describe them as a very humble and charitable community. I learned from that community about sharing and caring with no limits and discrimination.” A visit to the lost Inca city of Machu Picchu, high in the Andes Mountains, was another high point of the trip. “Machu Picchu has always been a place that I have wanted to visit since high school and never in a million years did I imagine that I would visit as a college student,” said Rebeca Silva, a junior Spanish major from Rockwall, Texas. “To learn about it in class and then to actually get to see it in person was amazing.” Silva said the entire trip “broadened my horizon on the way I view life and the world.” “Every place we traveled to changed me in a different way and opened my eyes,” Silva said. “From experiencing a different way of life and culture, I grew to be more appreciative of the things that I feel are taken for granted in America. Something as simple as a free public restroom, with toilet seats, is something that I now feel grateful to have. This trip was very much a humbling experience for me and I feel blessed with all the lessons, memories and experiences that I have taken and made from it.” The trip was not without its difficulties. Nauseating altitude sickness, painful insect bites, uncomfortable overnight bus trips, frustrating visa issues at the border and pesky 3 a.m. wakeup calls were a few of the minor inconveniences the group faced. There was even plane mechanical problems that delayed the return home two days. “This was a very challenging trip and the students were often outside of their comfort zone,” said Van Scoy. “The altitude was challenging and several were impacted. Through it all, they remained in good spirits and were enthusiastic about their opportunities. I don’t think there was a single person who participated on this trip that didn’t grow personally.” For Hailey Godfrey, a junior health science major from Salem, Ark., her first trip abroad was eye-opening. “This trip helped me realize all of the steps that are involved in traveling abroad,” she said. “It is not an easy process. The most important lesson I learned was to be patient. Not everything on an abroad trip is going to go perfect.  We had a couple of hang ups, but it helped me understand how to be patient when things were not in our control. Even with the difficulties, it was an incredible experience.” Most of the students received assistance to pay for the trip through the King Endowment for International Study, a University fund established by the estate of Virginia L. King to help Ozarks students who want to study abroad. “To see first-hand how gracious people are and to experience the unique sights, sounds and smells of a foreign country is just incredible,” said Kole Smith, a senior biology major from Canehill, Ark. “This trip has given me the confidence and desire to travel abroad more and to see different parts of the world and I’m thankful that the King Endowment gave me this opportunity.” For Gott, her first trip abroad has motivated her to begin plans to spend a semester during her junior year studying abroad in Chile. “I knew I needed to experience travelling with a group first before I started thinking about going somewhere on my own,” Gott said. “Whoever says that travel is over-rated needs to open their minds and broaden their horizons. The world is so much bigger than the United States and it is definitely worth seeing. There is so much to learn about and so many amazing people and places to see. I cannot wait for my next adventure.” Meghan Mansur had never traveled outside the United States before she enrolled at University of the Ozarks. Now the soon-to-be graduate is a seasoned traveler who can't wait to begin her professional career abroad. Since arriving at Ozarks, the senior Spanish major from Little Rock, Ark., has lived with a host family and studied Spanish in Costa Rica, served on a Rotaract Club mission trip to El Salvador, and participated in a two-week program in Japan that examined the effects of a nuclear disaster. "It's pretty amazing when I think about the opportunities I've had since coming to Ozarks," said Mansur, who will graduate in May. "I've grown and learned so much in the last four years. Growing up in Arkansas, I never even considered leaving the country. Now I can't wait for my next adventure."
"MeghanMeghan Mansur plans to use her degree and experience to teach English as a second language in Central and South America after she graduates in May.
That adventure includes a plan to spend the next two years teaching English as a second language in Central and South America. She hopes it will provide the foundation for a career in teaching Spanish on the college level. "Ozarks has given me the skills and confidence to take on a challenge like this," Mansur said. "I know I want to teach Spanish in the future and I believe this will help me tremendously. I honestly can't wait to begin." Mansur was a theatre major up until her junior year, when she decided to switch to Spanish. "I took a couple of classes and realized that I really loved Spanish," she said. "It's a lot like putting together a puzzle. Each day you put a little bit more of the puzzle together and you slowly start to see the big picture." Ozarks' personalized attention and flexible curriculum allowed Mansur to switch majors during her junior year and still graduate on time. "Dr. [William] Clary was great to work with me and made sure I was getting the classes and the experiences I needed," she said. "I wouldn't have been able to do it at most colleges." Her decision to major in Spanish and pursue a career teaching the language was reaffirmed during her immersion experience living and studying in Costa Rica during the summer of 2016. "Being able to build close relationships with the family I was staying with and other people made me realize the importance of language in relationships," Mansur said. "Interacting with my host mom's 5-year-old grand-daughter and cooking meals with my host mom were some of the most special moments of my life. I want to help other students experience those types of things and to be a resource for them." At Ozarks, Mansur is the president of the Campus Activities Board, a resident assistant and a member of the Rotaract Club. She has also been an orientation leader and student ambassador and has been a member of the academic Dean's List in six of her seven semesters. "I've been able to be a part of so much at this university and grow in so many wonderful ways," Mansur said. "Ozarks has shown me that anything is possible." University of the Ozarks Associate Professor of Spanish Dr. Bill Clary will present a paper at the Latin American Studies Association (LASA) Congress, scheduled for May 21-24 in Chicago.
"Dr.Associate Professor of Spanish Dr. Bill Clary will present a paper at the Latin American Studies Association Congress in late May.
Clary's paper focuses on Salvadoran writer Roger Lindo's 2006 novel "El perro en la niebla." Clary will also chair a panel discussion at the annual conference for the ninth time. The theme for this year's panel is, "Rescuing cultural memory in contemporary Central American narrative: the retrospective impulse of the 1970s and 1980s." "My involvement as chair has enabled me to invite and have the privilege of paneling with some of the top scholars in the field of Central American cultural and literary studies at the eight congresses my panel has appeared in since 2003," Clary said. "Other scholars on my panel will present their research on the works on contemporary Central American writers Horacio Castellanos Moya, Gloria Guardia and Erick Aguirre. Our discussant for the panel is Leonel Delgado Aburto, a Nicaraguan scholar who specializes in Central American cultural studies. He will travel to Chicago from the University of Chile in Santiago where he holds a position as professor of Central American literature and cultural studies." In addition to the LASA conference, Clary will be presenting at the 12th Congress on Central American History in San Salvador in July. His paper is on a novel by Honduran writer Julio Escoto. Clary earned his bachelor's, master's, and doctorate degrees from the University of Missouri and has taught at U of O since 2006. Columbia, Missouri, that is. Shayla Morrow, who graduated this spring from U of O, has been accepted into the graduate program at the University of Missouri at Columbia for the fall to begin studying for her Master's degree in Spanish literature.
"ShaylaShayla Morrow, who graduated this spring from Ozarks, will be studying at the University of Missouri at Columbia, working on her Master's degree in Spanish literature.
"While I am extremely excited to study Spanish literature, I'm also happy to announce I'm receiving a tuition waiver and stipend from the University of Missouri as a graduate instructor of the Elementary Spanish course," Morrow said. "My three majors - English, Spanish, and Secondary Education - have each offered a form of preparation for this next step in my life, and I am really grateful for the guidance, motivation, and dedication of all my teachers here at Ozarks. They have challenged me to always seek to reach my full potential. So here I go!" Morrow's interest in foreign languages began in high school. "My grandma took me on a trip to Germany, Italy, and Switzerland," she said. "It was my first time on a plane. Then when I was a sophomore here I went to Mexico for the 'Monarchs in Mexico' class - it's an interdisciplinary course that combines the Spanish language, Mexican history and culture, entomology, and ecology of Mexico. We were in Morelia in Michoacán in central Mexico, down past Mexico City. It really changed my life. And then I studied abroad in Mexico this past semester. So that's been my traveling out of the country, and my direct exposure to other languages and cultures. It was a year ago on Sunday since I was in Mexico and I miss it terribly!" Morrow grew up in nearby Hartman, population 596, and said a city the size of Columbia was a little intimidating. "It's a big campus," she said. "Really huge. I've gotten used to Ozarks, where everything is close together and everyone is so helpful. Not that they aren't helpful there, but there are so many more people! It's been a job just finding my way around and figuring out what I'm supposed to be doing! I'm planning to live off campus there. They do off-campus housing there the way we do our dorms here, and they even match roommates by interests. Anyway, it's all going to be a big adjustment!" At U of O, Morrow was president of the Ozarks Student Education Association, as well as a member of the Campus Activities Board and the Student Foundation Board, and a Resident Assistant. "Trying to work part-time off campus and attending classes as a full time student can be quite a challenge," she said. "However, I was able to find several work-study jobs on campus that allowed me to work, tutor, or mentor between classes. I've learned how to manage my time and balance a busy schedule, which easily transitions into the grad school setting because it's going to be equally demanding of your time.  Also, I've had the wonderful opportunity to make connections with students, faculty, and staff across all departments on campus, people I wouldn't have met if I didn't have these on-campus jobs.  Since I'll be moving farther away from my home to graduate school, I've learned how a support system of friends can be found across campus, not just in your own department." Morrow said she is extremely grateful to her professors at U of O for the challenges they presented her with, but also "how my professors have taught me to think.  In graduate school, I know I will be prepared because I have been taught how to think about the big ideas that exist in this society.  Now, it's up to me to act upon them and make a difference." In essence, Morrow said, she feels like she's collaborated with her classmates and professors to reach the same purpose - getting a quality education. "The small class population at Ozarks encourages student engagement in classroom discussions," she said, "which is a major factor in becoming an expert in your field.  I feel more than confident I will be ready for the challenges of grad school."

Clarksville, Ark.--- Estudiantes de 9 pa?ses centroamericanos y suramericanos dar?n presentaciones acerca de su pa?s natal el lunes, 5 de diciembre.


Estudiantes de 9 países centroamericanos y suramericanos darán presentaciones acerca de su país natal el lunes, 5 de diciembre.

Las presentaciones, las cuales son organizadas por el departamento de español de la universidad, el Club de Español y la Oficina de Estudios Internacionales, le darán a la audiencia la oportunidad de aprender sobre la cultura, sistemas económicos, sistemas políticos y celebraciones de los diferentes países. Los estudiantes también hablarán de los factores étnicos que conforman sus países…por ejemplo, sobre lo que los hace costarricenses, panameños, o nicaragüenses.

El programa se presentará enteramente en español. Cada presentación incluirá varios elementos audiovisuals como presentaciones Power Point, clips de música y de video. Después de una introducción de Dr. William Clary, profesor asociado de español, el programa estará formado por:

  • Costa Rica, presentado por Catalina Chen y Alejandro Córdoba
  • Panamá, presentado por Yeraldine Thomas y Fernando Valenzuela
  • El Salvador, presentado por Débora Sosa y Gerardo Navarrete
  • México, presentado por Christina Pedroza y Lucio Abraham Arias
  • Belice, presentado por Mynor Pineda
  • Guatemala, presentado por Anaeli Rodas y Joselinne Rodríguez
  • Perú, presentado por Renato Lagos
  • Nicaragua, presentado por Brianny Pupo y Eddwing Madrigal
  • Honduras, presentado por Gabriela Peña y Jose O'Connor

Ethan Harbour, coordinador del evento, dijo que éste será el tercer año que los estudiantes han realizado este programa. Los estudiantes siempre han estado entusiasmados en hacer las presentaciones, aunque signifique hacer trabajo extra durante el semestre. "Es parte de su cultura," él dijo. "Ellos realmente aman contar sobre quiénes son y qué son, especialmente aquí en Ozarks porque nosotros tenemos un campo lleno de diversidad cultural."

Las presentaciones se llevarán a cabo a las 7:00 p.m el lunes, 5 de diciembre en el Auditorio Baldor en el edificio de negocios Boreham. El evento es gratis y abierto para todo el público.

(in English)

Clarksville, Ark. --- Students from nine Central and South American countries will give presentations about their native country on Monday, December 5.


Students from nine Central and South American countries will give presentations about their native country on Monday, December 5.

The presentations, which are organized by the university's Spanish department, the Spanish Club, and the International Studies Office, will give the audience the opportunity to learn about the culture, economic systems, political systems, and holidays of the various countries. The students will also talk about the ethnic factors that have shaped their country…for example what makes them Costa Rican, Panamanian or Nicaraguan?

The program will be presented entirely in Spanish. Each presentation will include various audio and visual elements such as PowerPoint slides, music clips, and video clips. Following an introduction by Dr. William Clary, associate professor of Spanish, the program will feature information about:

  • Costa Rica, presented by Catalina Chen and Alejando Córdoba
  • Panama, presented by Yeraldine Thomas and Fernando Valenzuela
  • El Salvador, presented by Débora Sosa and Gerardo Navarrete
  • Mexico, presented by Christina Pedroza and Lucio "Abraham" Arias
  • Belize, presented by Mynor Pineda
  • Guatemala, presented by Anaeli Rodas and Joselinne Rodríguez
  • Peru, presented by Renato Lagos
  • Nicaragua, presented by Brianny Pupo and Eddwing Madrigal
  • Honduras, presented by Gabriela Peña and Jose O'Connor

Ethan Harbour, event coordinator, said this will be the third year that students have put on this program. The students have always been enthusiastic about doing the presentations, even though it means taking on extra work during the semester. "That's part of their culture," he said. "They really do love telling about who they are, and what they are, especially here at Ozarks because we are such a diverse campus."

The presentations will take place at 7:00 pm on Monday, December 5 in the Baldor Auditorium in the Boreham Business Building. The event is free and open to the public.

(en Español)

As Shayla Morrow's plane made its approach for landing in Morelia, Mexico, the University of the Ozarks senior knew she was in for perhaps the most challenging six weeks of her life. Little did she know it would also be among her most rewarding.

Shayla, a senior Spanish, English and secondary education major from Hartman, Ark., spent six weeks in May and June taking part in a Spanish language program provided by the Centro Universitario de Michoacan in Morelia, a state capital city of almost one million located in central Mexico.


Shayla Morrow at the top of the statue of Morelos on the island of Janitzio in Mexico.

Taking part in an immersion program is one of the academic requirements for students majoring in a foreign language at Ozarks. Years of taking Spanish classes in high school and college, studying text books and listening to tapes were put to the ultimate test as Shayla became completely immersed in both the Spanish language and culture.

“On my flight to Morelia, I reflected upon my years of studying Spanish at Ozarks,” she said. “I convinced myself that I was prepared for this trip because I had taken several Spanish conversation, grammar, and literature courses that were conducted in Spanish and often included native speakers as my classmates. However, I knew that this experience was much more important than any exam I had taken because it was putting my skills to the test. The first day was the most challenging because I had to transition into another culture and language in an instant. But, thankfully my preparation enabled me to quickly adjust and communicate sufficiently.”

Shayla took classes by day at the university and had her evenings and weekends free to get a first-hand taste of the culture. She stayed with a host family, making her experience even more enriching. She estimated that she spoke Spanish 98 percent of her time there, switching to English only to help her host family or friends with their English.

“Living with a family gave me the opportunity to continuously practice speaking Spanish and really experience the culture,” she said. “In other words, I spoke the language while sitting with the family at meal times, discussing the events of our day after classes, and I even practiced answering the phone in Spanish. These everyday scenarios provided me the comfort I experience at home and enabled me to enhance my Spanish-speaking ability.”

Shayla said that she’s had a desire to learn a foreign language since hearing other children speak Spanish on the playground in elementary school.  Tackling this new language is a challenge that she enjoys.

“It can be frustrating at times, but it’s very rewarding when you can get to the point where you carry on a conversation with someone in their language,” she said. “I pursue the study of the Spanish language because it is a passion of mine to be able to communicate in a language that is strongly recognized in the United States today.”

She said the immersion experience made her learn the language at an accelerated pace and, ultimately, provided her confidence in speaking a second language.

“When a person studies a foreign language in the United States, he or she will be exposed to the language in class, during homework, and occasionally at the supermarket,” she said. “Other than these locations, the student will not use the language because it isn't necessary; therefore, the opportunity to practice and improve is not available. When I was in Mexico, I had no choice but to use Spanish every day. Since I had to rely on the language to communicate my ideas or questions, slowly but surely the quality of my spoken language improved. Now that I am back in the states, I have much more confidence with the language than I had before I went to Mexico.”

Shayla said the challenge of living in a different culture for six weeks also gave her some insight and perspective on herself.

“Being away from my family and friends on this study abroad experience enabled me to focus upon myself and evaluate who I am as a person,” she said. “I learned that I can't be afraid to make mistakes or display weakness because if I don't, the lessons I learn won't be as meaningful.  When studying a language, you are going to make a mistake if it is foreign to you. And, when you make that mistake you learn from it and chances are you won't make the same mistake again.  I still don't have the entire Spanish language perfected, but I have greater confidence in speaking it because I learned from my mistakes along the way. As one of my professors would say, being fluent in a foreign language is not entirely possible because there are always new terms or vocabulary to be learned. ”

A new University program called the Academic Enrichment Fund offers competitive grants to students to support their research, internships and study abroad opportunities.  This program helped Shayla pay for the cost of the program and travel.

“With the money I received from the grant combined with the money I had saved on my own, I was able to have this experience of a lifetime,” she said. “If a student wants to go abroad but doesn't have the money, I would recommend that they talk with the financial aid office at their university. Without talking to the financial aid office, I would not have been aware of my options. Other than trying to save up personal paychecks to help fund the trip, the financial aid office is very knowledgeable about scholarship and loan opportunities that are available.”

Shayla will do her student-teaching in an 8th grade English class in Russellville during her upcoming senior year.  She plans to pursue a master’s of arts in language teaching in Spanish at the University of Missouri after graduating from Ozarks in May.

“The Spanish, English, and Education departments at Ozarks have greatly prepared me for career options I plan to pursue after achieving my degrees,” she said. 

And, those career options include a plan to one day to instill her passion for the Spanish language to other young people as a junior high or high school teacher.

“I hope my love for the Spanish language encourages confidence and excitement within my future students who choose to study Spanish,” she said. “Knowing the language and understanding the mistakes often made in learning it along the way will allow me to be an expert and also relate to my future students' misconceptions.”

Another U of O student, Micah Scroggins, also took part in the immersion program. Scroggins is a junior Spanish major and early childhood education minor, from Oark, Ark.


Shayla Morrow (left) and fellow U of O student Micah Scroggins (right) with one of their teachers from Centro Universitario de Michoacan at an overlook of the city of Morelia.

After completing the Monarchs in Mexico study abroad course in the fall of 2008, Assistant Professor of Spanish Dr. William Clary and Professor of Biology Dr. Frank Knight took a small group of Ozarks students to Mexico for 11 days. They studied the culture and history of Mexico and took an intensive look at the migration of Monarch butterflies.

"Every time I see a Monarch butterfly, I will always be reminded of my trip to Mexico," sophomore Shayla Morrow said.

Before the trip, "my classmates and I studied the nine-month migration of one generation of butterflies to this specific location in Mexico. It's one thing to imagine thousands of butterflies while you are sitting at your desk, but to be able to see them flying all around you and hanging in large masses on the trees is a memory I will never forget," she said.


Shayla Morrow and Julia Frost observed the monarchs at their winter resting grounds at the conclusion of the "Monarchs in Mexico" trip.

Seeing the Monarchs was like nothing she could have imagined, the secondary education major said. "When we discussed the migration of the Monarch butterflies in class, I did not really believe it was possible for so many butterflies to be in the same location at the same time."

"Like a swarm of bees," Morrow said, "the butterflies were hanging off of the tree branches in such large numbers causing the limbs to bend. At the same time, they are flying all around you and landing on your shoulder as if you were not a stranger to their environment. It was amazing to witness such a beautiful part of nature."

Because each average adult Monarch lives to be only four to five weeks old, there is a unique fascination in one of the greatest wonders of the Monarch species. Each autumn, the annual creation of a unique "Methuselah generation" occurs and unlike their parents, grandparents, even great-grandparents, this generation lives up to eight months and makes the long journey south for winter, according to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

The migration of North American Monarch butterflies to central Mexico occurs every autumn as the insects are guided by the sun's orbit from the cold temperatures of North America to the milder, warmer temperatures of central Mexico.

The orange, yellow and black insects are found over much of the United States during the summer months. In winter, nearly all North American members of the species congregate in a tiny volcanic region of the central Mexican state of Michoacan.

Estimated to be around 100 million in numbers, the butterflies travel at a pace of around 50 miles each day, although there are some that travel up to 80 miles in a day. According to the WWF, at the end of October and the beginning of November, after traveling two months, the butterflies settle into hibernation colonies in oyamel forests in the mountains of central Mexico.

Scientists believe that the Monarchs have been repeating the cycle for thousands of years.

The sight of millions of Monarchs brought mixed feelings to Ozarks sophomore Samantha Reed.

"At first, I was very skeptical about there being so many butterflies there at the sanctuaries," she said, "but after being in the midst of it all, it really made me think about all the wonders in life that go unnoticed."

Dr. Clary remembers being overwhelmed by the spectacle the first time he went to see the Monarchs with a group of students in 2005.

"The scene had a surreal quality to it, and everyone feels the exhilaration of being surrounded by literally thousands of fluttering butterflies, whose gentle wing-flapping produces a calming whir in the forest at 10,000 feet. The experience was so moving that I wanted to share it with many more students," he described.

The University's Monarchs in Mexico course is an interdisciplinary course that combines four separate disciplines: the Spanish language, Mexican history and culture, entomology and ecology of Mexico.

Dr. Knight, a zoologist and professor of biology at Ozarks, covered the monarch education, while Spanish Professor Dr. Clary taught the Mexican culture and history aspects of the course.

The Mexican culture and landscape were captivating to Reed.

"The mountains and hills were almost endless, and the beaches were so pretty," Reed said. "Everywhere you go in Mexico, you can just see how the culture takes form in everything. Everyone had a good time there, and I am definitely going back soon."

The course also highlighted the Spanish language and was used as a valuable resource for the students who participated to practice their Spanish while immersed within Mexican culture.

"I loved traveling to the different parts of Mexico," Morrow said, "but I truly valued the opportunity of practicing my Spanish speaking skills."

"A part of learning a language involves overcoming the fear of making mistakes when speaking," Morrow said. "In Mexico, I was forced to use the language, and I discovered I am capable of much more than what I give myself credit for in conversational settings. I am thankful for the confidence I gained from the trip as well as the opportunity to be a part of a vibrant culture along the way," she added.

Although she was very overwhelmed when she first arrived in Mexico City, one of the largest cities she had ever seen, Reed agreed when she said, she personally wanted to go to Mexico because "Spanish is my second major ,and I wanted to take the opportunity to improve my Spanish speaking skills and learn more about the Mexican culture."

Prior to taking the Monarchs in Mexico trip, many of the students were unaware of the Monarch migration patterns and were very surprised at how much they learned and what they experienced.

"I knew they migrated," Morrow said, "but I had no idea they gathered in the same area every year. The generation of butterflies that migrates to Mexico lives for approximately nine months compared to four weeks for other generations."

When Morrow saw a Monarch butterfly on campus later that spring, she was able to identify it as a probable offspring of the first generation of the butterflies she saw in Mexico.

The trip to Mexico not only included visiting the monarch sanctuaries, but also historic and tourist sites throughout the country.

When she first saw the sights, Morrow described the thoughts going through her head similar to, "Wow, I can't believe I'm here right now!" she said. "Every moment was so special to me because I never imagined myself going on such an adventure in my life."

When asked what it was like seeing the sites in Mexico, Morrow said, "the parts we traveled through were such beautiful, historical and vibrant settings."

She also enjoyed speaking with the people, visiting stunning architectural cities, and stopping by the "pastelería" to pick up sweets for the trip.

Learning about the Monarch butterfly and traveling to central Mexico was definitely an unforgettable experience, Morrow said. Describing her experience in one word, she concluded with "Inolvidable," Spanish for "unforgettable."

This article, by Emalee Pearson, originally appeared in the Spring/Summer 2009 Issue of Today Magazine.