Central Lakes College in Brainerd is giving Rocio Fernandez a semester of American academic opportunity as a Spanish instructor.
The 24-year-old Argentine, on her first trip to the United States, is a guest through the American Field Services organization and with underwriting from the Bremer Foundation. She will work with the Spanish Department at CLC through the term that ends Dec. 21.
"I am very happy to be here, to have the opportunity to share information about my country and to learn about America people," she said. Her goal is to communicate as much as possible in a forum provided by organizations and schools.
Liliana Hennis, an Argentine who is a faculty member at the college, said Fernandez will work with students at Washington Middle School in Brainerd and could be available for other specific projects as well. "She is also a qualified tutor for anyone who is wishing to learn the Spanish language," Hennis said.
Fernandez is an English instructor in Argentina, teaching any age to learn the language she has studied for many years since her first exposure to a "different" form of English. "I was 16 when I made my first trip out of Argentina," she said. "I went to New Zealand. I did not know English well, but I had a translation book open all the time."
She said she has already found certain customs in the United States that are far different than in her homeland. "We usually hug with a quick kiss on each cheek when we meet someone," she said. "Here you have no such custom."
And she said young people in Argentina often enjoy night life. "We are going out at 1 a.m. and coming home perhaps at seven or eight in the morning on weekends." This has caused her to adjust, as her hosts, Yvonne Leiser and Jack Olson, provide a sleeping space for nocturnal slumber.
"They offer so much food for breakfast, too," said Fernandez, noting she seldom eats even a slice of toast. Coffee is enough in the morning. "I am not used to eating eggs, sausage and other breakfasts such as you have in America."
Families in Argentina have a tradition of meat barbecues, often held on Sundays. Steak is a popular food, as the country has a significant cattle population.
She said the United States corporate presence is evident in products from tobacco to soft drinks to petroleum. Argentines, largely descendents of European people, receive free tuition for education from childhood to adulthood. Still, the economy suffers, joblessness is a problem, and goods and services can be costly to ordinary citizens.
"Government corruption has been historic in Argentina, as well as other countries in South America," said Hennis, noting the problems that started with Juan Peron's rule more than a half century ago, continuing with regimes that followed. The Democratic government is still frought with dubious activity as national elections every six years attempt to stabilize leadership.
Fernandez is from northeastern Argentina, a city of about 300,000 people 600 miles north of Buenos Aires.
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