Thursday, June 20, 2013

Uruguay Update: (Almost) one year later

Last year at this time, I was preparing to spend a part of my summer in Uruguay as part of a Fulbright Teacher Exchange Program. I had already received my partner back in February, and I was excited thinking about what I was going to experience in Uruguay.

I had a great experience that I couldn't wait to share once I got home, but I was married within two weeks of coming back from Uruguay. Two weeks after getting back from my honeymoon, I was in new school with new students. I needed time to get to know my students before getting them involved with Uruguay.

In October, I began to put together a presentation about my experience with Uruguay for the Massachusetts Foreign Languages Association's annual Fall Conference. I talked about the cultural experience and the educational experience since my talk was directed at Spanish teachers rather than students. I unfortunately didn't really get a chance to think about how I was going to incorporate Uruguay into my curriculum and adapt my presentation for the students who could care less about how one becomes a teacher in Uruguay.

The year just overtook me, and I didn't get a chance to really bring it up with the students until halfway through the year. When I got to the school chapter of the Spanish 1 textbook, I decided that this would be the best time to introduce the students to my experience. When doing this unit, it's fun to talk about what is similar and different about schools here in the US as compared to Latin America or Spain. Having this talk with them opened the door to Uruguay. I told them about my trip and showed them pictures of Liceo de Shangrila where I was hosted. So, I asked them to go around the school and take pictures that we could send down to them. After, they wrote captions for the pictures (which reinforced the vocabulary) and wrote accompanying penpal letters.

I wrote the letter below only a few weeks after the bombing in Boston which affected me so much. My friend in Uruguay said that her students were asking for me, and they wanted to make sure that we were alright. It was great to feel the love from so far away.

My letter to the students

The letters from my students

The pictures they took
The minute my friend received the package she got her students right to work to prepare a package to send to us. I have been anxiously awaiting its arrival especially since the end of the year was fast approaching. Well, it came today!! This is what it contained.

El correo uruguayo llega hasta donde quieras

What was inside the box

I missed these so much my friend sent me some!
Of course, I just had to have one! Love them!
Loved how she glued the yerba to the paper. 


Of course, they love to show which team they support!
We don't have much time left in the school year, really only a week. I hope that if the students see the letters they will want to write back (over the weekend hopefully!!). I told my friend if I can get something from them before next week, I will send it to her to keep the correspondence going. Then, she would have a few months to get something back to us in time for September. It would be a great way to start off next year.

Previously, former students would always ask about  having penpals. It's not that I didn't want to, but it was a matter of finding a good match. I am so fortunate that my friend and I are truly friends and partners in education. Otherwise, this would not be possible. I can't wait to see how this grows in the years to come.

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