Taking My Culture Into the Classroom


When I first came from Venezuela to study in the U.S., I decided to go to Santa Barbara to study English with an open window to go to college there. This resulted in the best, but also hardest, years of my life. The beautiful town, with its old Spanish architecture and immensely diverse community with the doors open to anyone, allowed me to meet and become friends with people from countries I’d never heard about.

After almost three years, I finished college and had to make the hard decision to leave the place that received me so warmly, and now I consider a second home. I transferred to SDSU with the expectation to get more involved with the community, which is why I decided to give a shot at the Intercultural Ambassador Program.

“In the second classroom, kids started asking questions about where I was from and it turned into a conversation about their pets.”

As an intercultural ambassador, my job consists of working with teachers of public schools and doing presentations about my country and culture to the children. I was shocked but honored to be part of this project, which gives me more exposure of the American culture in such an important setting as early education.

During my first visits to the schools, I felt nervous and full of scenarios in my mind. The first classroom I visited was at Encanto Elementary School. When I arrived at the office there were two little girls waiting to escort me to their classroom. As soon as I entered the room, all the children started screaming my name; The teacher had to ask them to calm down, and then gathered them to sit in the middle of the room.

While she introduced me to the class, I could see the emotion and happiness on the kids’ faces just for having a visitor in the classroom. She asked them a few questions about my country and most of them were raising their hands to answer. This made me excited about showing more about my culture to them, but most importantly I felt welcomed.

My second visit was at the Bostonia Language Academy, where I had to two classes to work with. In the first classroom, I enjoyed a great conversation with the kids and they told me about their expectations of what I was about to present to them. In the second classroom, kids started asking questions about where I was from and it turned  into a conversation about their pets.

It amused me to share a laugh with these children. They are, after all, the purest and most genuine human beings.

When I was about to finish up and say goodbye, one of the kids asked me if I had ever heard the colors song. I said I didn’t know it, and I asked them to sing it for me. Then the teacher grabbed a huge book and held it while flipping pages along with the song. The beginning didn’t sound as the teacher expected, so she made them start again — synchronized this time. It was one of the most beautiful interpretations, and something that I will never forget.

Opportunities are not presented daily, but it matters how we react when they arise. This has been a very wonderful experience and I feel grateful just to be a part of it.

Mario Salge Mata is an economics junior at San Diego State. He is an international student from Venezuela.

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