Archive for Thursday, September 23, 2004

Far from home

Argentina native to spend year at BU teaching, learning

September 23, 2004

Fernanda Tubio will tell you her English could be better, just as some Baker University students would say their Spanish could use some improvement.

But that's not a problem, because by the end of the year, everyone will have hopefully improved because Tubio is attending Baker this year.


Tubio, 24, will use her yearlong stay at Baker working with students as a Spanish teaching assistant. In turn, she plans to improve her English with help from the Baker community.

Tubio, a recent university graduate from Argentina, is participating in Amity Scholars, an international teaching program. As part of the program, she will spend the school year at Baker helping in the Spanish department while she takes two university classes -- sociology and literature.

"It's interesting for me," she said. "One moment I am an assistant teacher and then one moment I am a student."

Sandra Schumm, associate professor of Spanish at Baker, said the university tries to participate in the Amity program every year, taking turns with Spanish, French and German students.

Schumm said Tubio's presence helps Baker students learn in ways they normally wouldn't from professors.

"They can relate to her better," she said. "The students have the experience of both listening and talking with her, so the language becomes alive for them, the culture becomes alive. It seems more real to them than studying from a book.

"And she's a good example for them. She acts sort of like a model of what I want my students to do," Schumm said. "She's not afraid to speak English and make errors or not understand something, so they shouldn't be afraid to speak Spanish."

Tubio, who has been in Baldwin a little more than a month, has not only been assisting the Spanish professors in the classes, but working on her English as well, both in and out of the classroom.

She said she doesn't always understand everything and probably misses some things in class, so she makes sure to read her homework, even though it might take awhile to get through.

"When I read, I understand a lot. It's more difficult when people talk," she said. "So I try to read the lesson, it's easier to understand.

"In Spanish, 20 pages maybe I read in 30 minutes," she said. "But in English, maybe I read in two hours."

Tubio, who lives in Denious residence hall, said she also converses with other students as much as possible, even relying on a downstairs neighbor as a study partner.

"I speak English and she speaks Spanish," she said. "She corrects me and I correct her."

She said it is easier for her to understand older people, because younger people tend to use a lot of slang and shortened words making it more difficult for her to follow along.

She has also had to adjust to more than just the language. Tubio, who graduated from her hometown university in Rosario in December with a social communication degree, is living for the first time away from her parents.

She said students in Argentina typically spend their university career living at home instead of living in residence halls.

"Now I live with a lot of people who are 18 and 21, maybe 22," she said. "I'm 24 and now I've finished university, so it's different."

She said it is also typical in Argentina for different majors to be separated into different schools, with the students never interacting with students from other majors.

"It is interesting here because some people study biology and some people study math and then together they are studying Spanish," she said.

Tubio said during her time at Baker, she hopes to get advice from the professors on American universities while she decides whether she wants to pursue Masters and Doctorate degrees in the United States.

"Many of them have traveled," she said. "When you travel, your mind is open. They know of these places not because only they read about them, they've been there."

Schumm said though Tubio is gaining a lot from her stay at Baker, the university and its students also benefit. Not only are the students learning how to converse in Spanish, Schumm said, they are also being exposed to a different culture.

"When you get to know people from another country on a personal basis, you have a better connection with that country and more understanding about the things in that country," she said. "It kind of goes beyond the language study and the cultural study. It goes to making worldwide friends and better relations between countries."

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