By Marina Barbeira, an ambassador alumna from Buenos Aires, Argentina
Cultural exchange is a life-changing experience. Embedding oneself in another culture enacts two-way change. Our alumni are eager advocates of this life-changing opportunity. Read this reflection from one of our alumni to learn more about the benefits of cultural exchange.
Life in Argentina
My life can be split in two parts: before Participate Learning and after Participate Learning. Before becoming an ambassador teacher, my life had been pretty much the same. I had attended the same primary and secondary school. I spent 14 years with the same classmates.
I had always lived in the same country, same city, same neighborhood, and almost the same house. My vacations had always been somewhere in Argentina except for two or three summers we had been to Brazil. It doesn’t sound too exciting, does it?
It was mid-August 1998 when my life was about to change. I got a phone call from Participate Learning offering me a position in Richland One District, in SC. I was supposed to travel in a week! I was so anxious and happy and scared and all possible feelings came to my heart. In fact, I was so nervous at the time that I accepted immediately. I realized later that I hadn’t understood where I was going to work!
One week later, one of the greatest adventures of my life started. I remember the day of my arrival as if it had been yesterday and I will always be grateful to Participate Learning for changing my life.
Teaching in the US
This opportunity showed me the world, not only the states but my students and colleagues at school. I met other international teachers from so many different countries! France, Spain, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Mexico, and Venezuela. It was a chance to improve my English and to enlarge my Spanish as well! It was an amazing group of people and 19 years later I am still in touch with many of them. Some of them have become very close friends, despite the distance.
At school, it was surprising to find many people who had no idea at all about my country when they first met me. I remember one day a fifth-grader walked into my class with a flag of Argentina he had made for me. He told me he had spent many hours reading about my country online. “It looks cool!” he said. I tried to put a bit of my culture and my place into the classroom every day.
To teach the weather we worked on a map of Argentina, with the real weather conditions you may find in different cities there. My students said “En Bariloche nieva” or “En Posadas hace calor” while placing weather icons on a huge map and it was great! They loved it! They made me feel as though they were totally interested in Spanish but moreover, in me.
I think every teacher on Earth should have the opportunity to teach abroad. To have the opportunity to meet other cultures, to work in different environments and to see the world as the global place we all share.
And every student should have the chance to have an international teacher in his or her classroom. This will foster enthusiasm and eagerness to learn from a different perspective. Being an ambassador teacher made me grow into a better person and of course, a better teacher.
If you liked this post, read more from ambassador alumni about what it’s like to teach in the US. Participate Learning is also looking for qualified teachers to join our program — if you have at least two years of experience teaching primary school, math, science, or languages, find out more about teaching in the USA.