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WCHS Spanish students exchange letters, lessons in culture with students in Uruguay

WCHS Spanish students exchange letters, lessons in culture with students in Uruguay

The first letters from high school students at Montevideo, Uruguay arrived last week, providing students in Erin Moehl’s Advanced Placement Spanish 5 class a glimpse of life for peers living roughly 5,500 miles away.

Written in English, the native Spanish speakers composed letters describing a school day that kicks off at 7:30 a.m. with two 10-minute breaks for breakfast and a quick game of volleyball or football. Afternoons are filled with more classes as well as a snack break before the end of the school day at 5 p.m.

This week, Moehl’s students responded with letters of their own — written in Spanish — that documented parts of their day.

For years, Moehl had envisioned a letter exchange between her students and native Spanish-speakers at Impulso Secondaria, a school in Montevideo she visited as part of a summer abroad program with Ohio State University in July 2022. 

She decided to launch the initiative this year because of the larger class size and the interest among students in her AP Spanish 5 class. 

“They are itching to have somebody to get to know,” Moehl said. “It’s comparing their own culture with the culture where the language is spoken. This has been so instructive for them. It’s more than just learning from a book.”
WCHS students said they are excited about the opportunity to connect with their peers in South America. Some are nervous about applying their Spanish language skills with native speakers, wondering about nuances in dialect and striking a balance between formal and informal phrases. 

And they were impressed by their peers’ grasp of English from their letters.

“The words they used are words I don’t even use,” WCHS senior Malachi Bryant said. “It was definitely interesting to see all the advanced vocabulary that they have that I don’t even use on a day-to-day basis.”

Ultimately, WCHS students said they are excited to learn about the culture in Montevideo by getting to know teens on a personal level.

“For me, looking at textbooks can be very boring,” Bryant said. “I love talking to people and I’d love to talk to someone directly and ask them questions about things I want to know and not just, ‘Here’s this paragraph you are going to read and learn about this.’”

WCHS senior Isabella Huth agrees.

“It would be a good way to look at our personal lives and see it from a different perspective,” she said.

  • Westerville Central High School
  • Westerville City Schools

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