Each year, several Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistant Fellows arrive at Susquehanna University to teach students their native language and share pieces of their culture — all while learning about culture in the United States as well.
Susquehanna’s language fellows had the opportunity to experience another segment of central Pennsylvania culture when they visited Palace Creek School, a Mennonite school in Mount Pleasant Mills, Snyder County, about 10 miles west of campus.
“We had never seen a Mennonite population until we arrived in the USA. Once here, we had crossed paths with some carriages on the road, but we had not had any interaction with them,” explained Jorge del Caño Duran, a Fulbright language fellow from Spain. “From the first visit we made to talk to the teachers, they were very open to having this experience.”
To break the ice before heading into the classroom, the fellows joined the children at recess. It was del Caño Duran’s first experience playing “America’s game” — baseball.
“It was a really nice experience because they made us part of their teams and they were smiling all the time,” said Tatiana Gallego, of Columbia. “Of course, some of them were shy at first but little by little they felt more comfortable with us.”
Once in the classroom, German language fellow Lucas Gersmeier taught the students the German names of various animals.
“To our surprise, they already had some flashcards with the Pennsylvania Dutch names of some animals,” del Caño Duran said. “Lucas was inspecting them and noticing some differences between their modern German and the one they had written there.”
At the conclusion of Gersmeier’s lesson, it was del Caño Duran and Gallego’s turn to conduct their Spanish lesson.
“Tatiana and Jorge used flash cards with pictures of animals the children already knew in English to introduce some Spanish vocabulary,” Gersmeier said. “Combining the words and pictures with the respective animal sounds, they learned quickly.”
The day’s end brought a musical performance and some more outdoor time. The fellows are now looking forward to returning to the classroom in the spring.
“It was a very enriching exchange of cultures. I saw in this opportunity a perfect situation to know more about the communities that exist within the U.S.,” Gallego said. “I could even share about my Colombian coffee culture because one Mennonite man grows coffee in his fields. It is interesting to have insights of the differences among our ways of living, but also what can bring us together.”
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