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Spanish classes participate in virtual exchange with Argentine students

By Sophia Lincoln

American University of Kuwait
Universidad Nacional de San Martin

Though she typically spends summers leading a Cal Poly abroad program in Spain, this year world languages and cultures professor Silvia Marijuan decided to give her Spanish language students an entirely different experience with students from her own country of origin: Argentina.

“I think it is very important for students to have a broad international perspective that includes not only a European perspective, but also the perspective of a student from Latin America,” Marijuan said.

According to Marijuan, these two perspectives are quite different especially considering the dictatorships and economic crises that Argentina faced just a few decades ago.

“Argentina is a very interesting country because people there have gone through a lot,” Marijuan said.

Originally from Buenos Aires, Marijuan used to teach at the Universidad Nacional de San Martin (UNSAM). After collaborating with her previous colleagues there, Marijuan was able to put together a virtual global engagement program for her Introduction to Spanish Linguistics class.

According to Marijuan, the program went on for six weeks during Fall Quarter 2020 and required her students to interact with an assigned partner from UNSAM for one hour per week.

Diana Beas is one of Marijuan’s students who was able to participate in the exchange. Beas said that the virtual experience enhanced her learning of the class’ subjects and allowed her to make international connections that she wouldn’t have made otherwise.

“It was a lot of fun meeting someone from a different country,” Beas said. “You get to learn a lot about their culture, their lifestyle, the slang words they use and so much more all while learning about topics related to your class.”

Marijuan said that these friendships her students were able to make with the students at UNSAM is one of the unique benefits of a virtual exchange.

“Sometimes what happens is students go abroad and make really good friends within their groups but not necessarily with the locals there,” Marijuan said.

Marijuan also said that she assigned partners based on similar interests, including majors of study.

“I think the experience was really enriching not only for [Cal Poly] students, but also for the students in Argentina because they were able to discover a lot of things that they never really thought about,” Marijuan said.

Marijuan also plans to write a research paper about the virtual exchange experience to share her and her students’ experiences with other second language educators. She also hopes that these types of virtual programs will become more widespread.

“I think it is very important to offer these opportunities to all students because not every student can afford to go abroad,” Marijuan said. “It’s important to have these kinds of experiences embedded in different classes to offer students internationalization experiences.”

Marijuan said she has received positive feedback from many of her students.

“I was so happy,” Marijaun said. “To see all of the connections was really important to me to build this community.”

Funding for this virtual exchange was provided by the College of Liberal Art's Global Engagement Grant.

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