(posted on Sunday, February 26)
Scholars talk to teens
Members of the Fulbright International Scholarship program visited Miami-Dade high schools Friday for a cross-continental chat.
BY JOSELLE GALIS-MENENDEZ
Three international scholars sat down with a group of G. Holmes Braddock high school students for a candid conversation ranging from education and politics to sausages and beer.
The visitors, who are studying in the United States under the Fulbright International scholarship program, were taken aback by the size of Braddock's 4,600 student population.
"The town I grew up in has about 4,000 people," said New Zealander Alastair Cameron, 27, who is studying at New York University. "Our biggest city is just over one million."
Cameron, perched on a small wooden stool in front of art teacher Laura Lockwood's 26 students, was joined by University of North Carolina at Greensboro student Tina Steffenmunsberg, 28, of Germany, and Syracuse University student Manuel Castro Rocha, 30, of Nicaragua.
Steffenmunsberg kicked off the session by asking what the students knew about her native country -- and laughed when the response was "sausage and beer."
She told the kids that in Germany they would all be able to buy beer, because you only have to be 16 to do so, but you have to wait until 18 to drive.
Steffenmunsberg explained differences between German and American school systems.
In Germany, students attend a primary school until the fourth grade and then move on to a basic, advanced or pre-university school, depending on future plans.
"That means in the fourth grade your teachers, you and your parents have to decide what career you will pursue," she said.
Andre Castro, a senior, inspired by a recent trip to Europe, asked the graduate student about the American image overseas.
"Why is it when you speak English they treat you differently than when you speak to them in Spanish?" he said.
"Many people have the image of English-speaking travelers traveling the world and not trying to learn the languages," Steffenmunsberg said. "Sometimes just a little bit of effort will break the ice."
Quickly and comfortably, the conversation shifted to more serious topics, such as democracy and language barriers.
The local students were surprised to hear both Germany and New Zealand have female leaders at the moment, Germany for the first time.
Castro Rocha had a more tumultuous story to tell. He talked about Nicaragua's 16-year struggle for political progress. He struck a chord with the kids when he explained his biggest barrier since moving to the United States: communication.
"My classmates speak too fast and they are used to slang, so I just don't get it," he said.
Castro Rocha and his colleagues, in turn, had a few questions and comments for the kids.
"When it's hot you guys have the air conditioner so high that I need a sweater. It's almost like you never breath fresh air," Steffenmunsberg said. "In Germany you just open the windows and let the breeze in."
Other Fulbright scholars visited students at Coral Gables, Michael M. Krop, Felix Varela, John A. Ferguson, Miami Carol City, North Miami Beach, Ransom Everglades, Southwest Miami and William H. Turner Technical Arts high schools and New World School of the Arts.