Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Immerse Yourself

Contributed by: Matt Hilton, ELMS Project

A big part of teaching English as a Second Language and working with English Language Learners is understanding the culture they bring with them. This summer I had the opportunity to travel to Costa Rica through the Watson College of Education at UNC-Wilmington. With this opportunity I hoped to acquire a personal understanding of the Latin American culture that a lot of my students have. In order to keep this post relatively short here are some highlights:

Host Families: By far the best experience of the whole trip was my time with my tica (native Costa Ricans) familia. I had two different families; one in Heredia (urban) and one in Monteverde (mountains). Both families are family oriented; the majority of the time was spent with relatives. Luckily for me they took me in as one of their own, always making sure to include me. They were very purposeful in helping me learn Spanish and of course the occasional jokes came with my bad pronunciation. I grew so close with both my families that they even invited me back in the future!

Immersion Cycle: The immersion cycle is the process of acclimating to a new culture and language. This cycle is a very difficult process, which I came to find out. Not only did I have to use Spanish in my home-stay, but my academic work was also in Spanish. I truly felt the same way an ELL student would be in the United States. I had to use my low proficiency L2 to get through the day and then not even get a break on homework.

Volunteer Work: While there we were able to go to a few schools and work with students. It was great to see the excitement on the students faces as we stepped into the classroom and work with them one-on-one. Along with our visit we were able to donate books and supplies for their classroom.

Tourism: It wouldn’t be a trip to Costa Rica without doing a few touristic opportunities. These included going to zoos, zip lining, and volcanoes. My favorite tourist activity was the zip-lining; something I’ve never done before.