During the fall of 1992, the first university was established in the young city of Cancun, Mexico. It was La Salle University, a world-renown private institution governed by the Christian Brothers. During spring break of 1993, President Biff Green was invited to Cancun to sign an agreement of sisterhood with the idea of promoting and establishing yearly student exchanges between the two institutions. Thus began what would be 20 successful years of interaction consisting of foreign language study, home stays, learning about the sister cities, and becoming bilingual in Spanish or English. Year after year, 10-12 students from Wichita were selected to participate in the Cancun program in May/June and the same number of La Salle students came to Friends University in January to study English, become bilingual, and go skiing in Colorado. They also stayed with local families including staff, professors, students, and administrators of Friends University. Many alumni will remember participating in this unique study abroad program, serving as a host family or on the support team when the La Salle students were in Wichita. Over the years this opportunity and experience have been reported as life-changing.
The program is based on the sister city relationship between Wichita and Cancun and has received generous in-kind and scholarship support from the Wichita Area Sister Cities program, local individuals as well as Friends University. Not only students from Friends but also students from other universities and schools such as Wichita State, Newman, Kansas University, Kansas State, TCU, the University of Texas (Austin), and East High School (International Baccalaureate) have also participated in the study abroad program over the past twenty years.
Originally, students spent two weeks in Cancun and two weeks in Valladolid, a small city in the state of Yucatan. In recent years, the program has been based completely in Cancun. Students were able to complete required coursework in the Spanish minor and major while living in Cancun for a month. Those classes were Spanish Conversation and Mayan History and Culture. The latter is a course that includes not only classroom instruction but also visiting the archeological sites, climbing pyramids, swimming in cenotes, and learning firsthand the stories associated with important cultural places in the Yucatan Peninsula. Many incredible photos were taken at the highest points of the pyramids of the Mayan world.
During the 2015 study abroad graduation services, Rector Fernando Mainou Cervantes commented on his 20 year association with this extraordinary program. He stated that it began with the hope that annual student exchanges would not only change lives but also firmly support the vision and mission of the two Christian sister universities related to international study and cultural exposure for the betterment of mankind. Those hopes and dreams have been realized beyond our original expectations. He, along with Vice Rector, Efrain Calderon, reconfirmed the commitment to continue this successful program with hopes to expand its scope in the future.