By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger
DAVENPORT — After taking students to Colima, Mexico, for cultural exchange for several years, teacher Jodi Smith decided to reciprocate and invite students from Mexico to come to Assumption High School where she teaches.
Eleven Mexican students and two chaperones participated in the cultural exchange from Oct. 30 to Nov. 8. During the week, the students attended Spanish and other classes such as chemistry and English at Assumption. Smith said the Mexican and Assumption students worked on their English and Spanish together in her classes and talked about what it is like in Mexico. Some of the Mexican students had been to the United States previously, but this was the first visit to Iowa and in a more rural area.
Colima is located along the Pacific Ocean, about 350 miles west of Mexico City. The high school-aged visitors said English is taught beginning in kindergarten, so they know the language pretty well. “Every school teaches English,” said visiting student Ana Paula Covarrubias. The visitors noted that the Spanish language is not the same throughout Mexico. Some words are similar while others are quite different.
The visiting students said speaking in Spanish with the Assumption students, who learn Spanish spoken in Spain rather than in Mexico, was not too bad. They enjoyed being able to speak English with the Assumption students, too. “We learn it (English) at school but don’t get to practice it much,” Covarrubias said.
Regarding her overall visit, Covarrubias said she thought American food was good;she loved the cooler climate and was able to see many sites during her stay. She said one big difference between her school and Assumption is that students stay in the same room all day. Teachers rotate in and out of the room. Assumption students move to different rooms throughout the day.
Natalia Lepe said she liked learning about U.S. culture from her host family and visiting different sites in Davenport. Max Cortes enjoyed seeing “real American culture” by attending classes and not being in a large city as a tourist. Luz Maldonado loved the crisp weather, seeing the change of color in the leaves and visiting parks.
Assumption senior Matt Tjaden said he enjoyed meeting the students from Mexico and having his family host a student. “I think I’ve gotten quite a bit better in my Spanish.”
Assumption junior Gabriel Gonzalez said it was something out of the ordinary for class, and he enjoyed the visits. Since he speaks Spanish, it was easy to converse with the students.
Smith said she lived in Colima for six years and has made six or seven trips back with Assumption students since she began teaching at Assumption. During a trip this past summer, she talked about the possibility of having Colima students come to Davenport. She feels the visit was a success. The hardest part was coordinating classes for the visiting students to attend throughout the day.
On Nov. 5 the Spanish Club met at Azteca restaurant. In addition to talking about what the club does and eating a meal, the group celebrated Mexican student Regina Ochoa’s 16th birthday a day early. Smith said the restaurant went all out to sing happy birthday to Regina.
On Nov. 6, the Spanish class surprised Regina with a birthday cake and sang “Los Mananitas” to her. Regina said she never gave any thought to having her birthday celebrated in the United States. But between the two celebrations she said she really had a lot of fun.