The Ashland Amigo Club has chosen two recipients of its initial scholarships for students studying at the University of Guanajuato in Ashland’s Sister City. They are SOU seniors Blanca Ivette Valadez and Cody L. Mock.

Each student received a $500 award from the club, a booster of Sister City relations since 1969.

Mock and Valadez reported from Guanajuato that their time there had changed their world views and improved their Spanish while making close friendships with students from Mexico and around the world. They said they hoped to host some of their new friends in Ashland.

By studying abroad, “you come to love a life that is other than your own,” Mock, 22, emailed from Guanajuato. “You’re bombarded with new things every day, whether it’s trying new food or listening to different music, you are constantly learning.”

He added, “The only true way to learn about a culture or language is to live in it.”

Mock’s studies are focused on history and Spanish, while Valadez, 21, has a double major in Spanish and criminal justice/criminology, with a minor in psychology.

“Studying abroad has made me more independent, and has opened a door to discovering myself while gaining and understanding a different culture,” Valadez emailed. “It has also made me appreciate life more because there are so many people with very little, yet they seem to appreciate and make the best out of life.”

Valadez said, “This has been the best time of my life, and I am so sad that it is almost coming to an end.”

She said she had gained closed relations with her host family. “Everyone is so friendly, and my peers and professors at the university are so helpful and respectful,” she said.

Each scholarship recipient recommended that other SOU students take advantage of the opportunity to study in Guanajuato.

The two exchange students will return to SOU classes in January.

The Amigo Club created its scholarship endowment fund with the SOU Foundation last year to encourage student exchanges between SOU and the University of Guanajuato through the Amistad (Friendship) Program. More than 1,000 students, administrators and academics have participated in the program since its inception 47 years ago simultaneously with the establishment of Sister City relations.

The scholarship application deadline for the 2017-18 school year is March 15, 2017.

Dinner/auction features Guanajuato chef

The Amigo Club is preparing its second annual Guanajuato Nights dinner/auction, offering another opportunity to sample traditional Sister City cuisine in Ashland cooked by an outstanding Guanajuato chef.

The event will be held from 5:30 to 9 p.m. on Nov. 19 at the Ashland Elks Lodge. A silent auction will be followed by a live auction of vacation rentals in Oregon and Mexico.

Last year’s Guanajuato Nights raised more than $10,000 for the Amigo Club Endowed Scholarship Fund administered by the Southern Oregon University Foundation. Frances “Faffie” Siekman of Guanajuato matched the amount, pushing the fund’s total to more than $50,000.

Siekman, wife of Mexican Sen. Juan Carlos Romero Hicks, an early Amistad Program exchange student, plans to attend the event again this year.

Chef Salvador de la Tejera Alcalde, coordinator of gastronomic and tourism studies at Guanajuato’s University of Santa Fe, will prepare a multiple-course dinner, assisted by three University of Santa Fe students. His anticipated menu will showcase traditional cuisine of Guanajuato, ranging from an elegantly flavored broth and a tamale ensemble to a dish he has named Adobo Ashland, featuring chicken and roasted potatoes with a savory sauce of Rogue Valley ingredients.

For Guanajuato Nights tickets or information, call 541-482-3095 or email

Amigo Club’s Entre Amigos (Between Friends) column about Ashland ties to its sister city Guanajuato, Mexico, appears on the third Tuesday of each month. Longtime AP reporter and bureau chief Kernan Turner is an Ashland resident and Amigo Club member.