One of the biggest benefits of global education is that students make major improvements in reading and writing without even realizing it! PenPal Star Camila from Argentina experienced this recently when she participated in World Explorer. She noticed her writing getting better week after week, but she was more focused on learning as much as possible from her global pen pals!
She told us, “The best thing I found about learning with PenPals is that it’s a super effective and entertaining way of practicing the language. Since the beginning, we are able to choose a topic of our interest, which is such an advantage. When I started to write to my penpals, I was filled with excitement, and it made me work harder and as a result I obtained better results with each assignment. Reading and responding as well as receiving responses was also thrilling, because the cultural differences and space barriers became meaningless, and I was able to learn so much more than grammar and writing. I ended up discovering how many other penpals lived all around the world.”
Camila’s impressive and thoughtful writing earned her recognition as a PenPal Star! When she’s not learning with pen pals on PenPal Schools, Camila loves studying philosophy and history. “Despite being very theoretical, I find both subjects extremely interesting, because we can compare the past with the present, and that way we can have a better future.” She’s also learning Japanese, because “learning a new language is one of the richest and most unique experiences a person can have.”
We caught up with Camila to learn more about her experience connecting with students around the world.
PPS: How did you feel when you found out you were going to be featured as a PenPal Star?
Camila: I was so surprised! I wasn’t expecting it at all, but of course I felt extremely happy and really honoured that my work was recognised and praised to the point you want me to be a PenPal star!
Why do you think it's important to learn with other students from around the world?
I think it’s important because it’s the best way of learning. We live in an interconnected world, where old traditional ways of teaching are losing its effectivity day by day. The main benefit from learning a foreign language is allowing an immense and valuable cultural exchange with others, and I think that allowing that to happen while studying makes the whole experience a great load more fun and interesting.
What was the most important lesson you learned in World Explorer?
Personally, the lesson that I consider the most important in this project was the one concerning Pop culture. While reading what other Penpals wrote, I was astounded when I noticed most of the things they mentioned were also very common in my community. This made me realise how global our reality has become thanks to the internet, and that people that live so far away from me can enjoy the same things that I do.
What is the most interesting thing you learned from your PenPals?
How different our lifestyles are, and how talented and determined some people are with their studies and activities. So many people my age do so much [more] than me, it impressed me and it motivated me to be better and try new things.
Tell us about the final project you decided to publish in the showcase! What did you choose to create, and why? How did you come up with that idea?
I wanted my final project to reflect all the work I had done during the lessons, and to represent my community and myself the best way possible. I used the same topics as the lessons and decided to write a heartfelt conclusion, to express the way I had felt during this journey.
How has your project changed the way you think about the world?
It made me realise that the immense differences that exist in people’s lifestyles around the world. And how those differences don’t restrain us from communicating and understanding with people that live in other countries.
What advice do you have about being a great PenPal?
I think my greatest advice would be being determined and having fun. Chose a topic of your interest, work with your lessons and deliver them properly, and never stop enjoying the exchange with others. Leave lots of comments and appreciate others’ comments on your posts. Practise makes perfect, and through PenPals you learn so much more than a foreign language, you are learning about the world too.
If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?
I find this question extremely hard, because I love traveling so much, but I think if I had to choose a single place to go to I would be London. I was there for a very brief moment but I completely fell in love with the city and everything it has to offer. To me, it’s one of the most magical places in the world.
Check out the project based learning example that Camila published in the Showcase. She included her responses to the weekly lessons and summarizes what she learned from PenPals.
My daily life consists of the following:
Everyday I wake at 6 am to head over to school. Sometimes my father drives me to school, but I also go by foot. We have lots of subjects but my favourite one is probably English or Philosophy.
I come back home at around 1:30 pm, and have lunch. Later on the day I do other activities, this year for example I started to study Japanese.
Other penpals that had also answered the question mentioned as well they every day activities, having different school hours as me and doing several activities after school.
The food I’ve chosen to talk about was Argentinian empanadas. Here is what I wrote:
Here in Argentina there are lots of popular foods that people crave for everyday. One of my favourites are empanadas. An empanada is made of dough and then filled with different ingredients. Traditionally stuffed with seasoned meat and fried, they are a really popular meal in national holidays, and even in everyday life. They are not extremely expensive or hard to make, and they are really delicious!
I was surprised to see many other penpals from chile talk about the same dish, explaining the way they prepare it there, which I’d love to try and compare to the ones I eat in my country.
I decided to mention a very important event in the history of my country: the Declaration of Independence. Below you will find what I researched about it:
As every country there are several important historic events and dates that we remember during the year, and all of them have a particular impact in the way our daily life is today. Personally, I think that the most important historical event is the 9th of July, the day of independence in our country. Argentina was a Spanish colony since the XVI century, known as a Viceroyalty named after the most important river (‘Virreinato del Rio de la Plata’) ; until the so called ‘Revolución de Mayo’ (May Revolution), in which the viceroyal was removed from its functions by ‘La primera junta’, a group of men that wanted an independent and free country, and that fought till the very end to achieve what happened six years later, the Declaration of Independence in 1816. This process shaped the way our country is today, and with its flaws and all, I think that independence is such an important foundation that we have to be thankful for every day. Thanks to those who fought for us, we are now able to have an identity as a country, something extremely valuable that we are very proud of.
After reading my penpals answers, I noted that many have also chosen the Declaration of Independence of their respective countries, which allowed me to know more about how other nations have experienced the same process. Others mentioned famous sports figures as well as recognised musicians as a part of their national history.
Art and literature
I chose a local artist whose work I found inspiring. Here is what I know of her and her work:
Here in my country there are plenty of very recognised artists and writers that are know worldwide. Recently, I’ve been interested in the work of a urban artist that works in Rosario, the city I live. Her name is Vanessa Galdeano, and she’s known for working with little colourful mosaics, creating different images and shapes. I really love her work because she uses public spaces to do her pieces. She has worked in different parts of the city such as parks, galleries, streets and walls that are for everyone to see and enjoy. That’s why I think her work is so special: her team and her not only do what they love but also contribute to the city, transforming dull places into outdoor museums, and overall making the city more beautiful by adding unique pieces of art for everyone to enjoy.
For this topic I decided to talk about a global phenomenon that is now kpop. Below I attached what I could write about the topic.
I think that a growing trend here in Argentina (and also all over the world) is listening to kpop, and the kpop style as a whole. Kpop is the short form of Korean pop, and in the recent years it has taken the world by storm, with super popular kpop groups like BTS performing in elite awards shows like the BMAs. From my perspective, kpop is something so different from everything I’ve listened before: the music is eclectic, it takes elements form different genres and there’s something for everyone. But what’s so particular about kpop is the visuals, the fashion is unique and the aesthetics are so important. The kpop industry is also very strict, entertainment companies work with boys and girls that want to be kpop idols, having them under their label in a training period (that lasts for years in some cases) before they can actually be part of a group. Many events and kpop conventions are held in my city, with great attendance, as kpop only keeps getting bigger every day.
After reading my penpals answers, I found several coincidences not o oh with what I wrote, but also with other trends that I didn’t mentioned but that are in fact quiere popular in the region I live. This was a very surprising thing to me, and now I see it as an example that globalisation is indeed a powerful thing, and that in the times we live in distance is not a definite factor for following trends on the internet.
To me, this experience was overall great. It allows students to go farther from their classrooms, discovering new cultures and learning more than what English textbooks can provide. It is an entirely rewarding experience, and I’d totally recommend this to any student around the world.
Congratulations Camila, and thanks for being such a great PenPal! If you’re looking for project based learning ideas that connect your students with their peers around the world, check out World Explorer and the other PenPal Schools projects. Invite your students to learn from PenPals like Camila!