Outside the campus coffee shop, Aromas, four students burst into a lively rendition of happy birthday in Spanish. Their teacher, Fiorella Alvarez, smiled proudly, hardly noticing the mouth-watering slice of chocolate cake they placed in front of her. After three short weeks, these dedicated students of the Spanish Language Program are well on their way to fluency. “Because it’s your birthday, no classes this afternoon?” jokingly asked, in Spanish, The MasterCard Foundation Scholar Lusekelo Mkuwi (’16, Tanzania). Fiorella and the other students laughed.
Escaping the traditional classroom is not unheard of this year. Patricia Montero, the Spanish Language Program coordinator, explained that, after taking last year’s feedback into consideration, there is more emphasis on complementing the morning’s lesson with afternoon activities. At the coffee shop, the students were practicing their newest vocabulary with Aromas’ much-loved barista, Marcela Solano. They asked question after question about the coffee, smoothies, pastries, prices, and even asked Marcela when the coffee shop was established. “We learn new words every day, and we also practice them with our [host] families. That helps a lot,” said Lusekelo in Spanish.
The MasterCard Foundation Scholar, Abigael Pertet (’16, Kenya), added that the Spanish Language Program gives them the opportunity to study not just the language, but other Costa Rican topics as well. The other students agreed with Abigael that being in Costa Rica has been interesting and full of new experiences, new friends, new food, and visits to new places. “But EARTH University is the most beautiful place in Costa Rica!” exclaimed, in Spanish, The MasterCard Foundation Scholar, Festus Guah (’16, Liberia).
These students have enjoyed a smooth transition thanks to the support from their host families, friends, and Fiorella. Small class sizes worked well last year and this year’s 24 students are divided into four groups. Fiorella’s students are thankful for the personal attention they receive. “I like the diversity of the University,” said Lusekelo in Spanish. With the students in the Spanish Language Program representing 13 countries, it is nice to see them embracing the international atmosphere on campus, as well as Costa Rica’s “pura vida” mind-set.
The MasterCard Foundation Scholar, Annet Mukamurenzi (’16, Rwanda) is proud to be representing Rwanda for the first time at EARTH. With a history marred by genocide and hardships, Annet says Rwanda is working hard as it pursues development and seeks reconciliation. Her presence on campus is “an opportunity for Rwanda. To have me become a leader of change, I count it as a blessing. I’m going to work hard and make every effort to represent my country, and to learn as much as I can to make my country proud,” she said.
After having savored a small bite of Aromas’ Better-Than-Anything cake, Fiorella set down her fork. “Okay, now we’re going to learn transportation vocabulary,” she said. Break time was over. The students flipped their notebooks open to a new page, pens expectantly poised.
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