When au pair Scarlett Palomo learned that her Area Director’s daughter was studying Spanish at her Texas high school, Scarlett jumped at the chance to visit the school and speak with the students. She wanted to tell the them about El Salvador, the beautiful country that she knows and loves. The students were beginning a project on Central America so were excited at the opportunity to learn about one of its countries first-hand.
The conversation between Scarlett and the classroom was enriching on both sides. The students asked a variety of questions; what was life like in El Salvador, what type of music was considered "traditional", if uniforms were required at school, a few questions about the politics of El Salvador and much more. One question that stood out for Scarlett related to the graduation rates of students in El Salvador. As she explained that many students in her home country leave school before graduating to go to work to help support their family, she noted the surprised reactions of many students who couldn’t fathom living that path.
While Scarlett went into the experience primarily to do a lot of sharing, she found that the talk was a great learning experience for her as well. Hardly the ‘traditional American high schools that she has seen in movies’ Scarlett was very impressed. Belton New Tech High School is an ‘Apple Distinguished School’ that focuses on intertwining technology and learning. The building space was different than what she was used to finding in a school:
“The school had a ton of open space for collaborating and they used a lot of visual materials for teaching. They also used high end computers to assist in students’ learning and the school was a much more social environment than a ‘typical’ high school.”
Scarlett also took away a better understanding of the academic and team building skills high school students in the United States learn:
"Talking with the students at the school showed me that this kind of learning is beneficial because they prepare the students for real life. They will be able to think in teams and help others with these advanced skills” said Scarlett about her time at the high school.
Overall both Scarlett and the students had a wonderful time and each learned new things about the other’s education systems and cultures. Scarlett hopes to continue to visit the school during her program year!
Scarlett also has a passion for the au pair program, and answered a few of our specific questions to help others thinking about becoming au pairs.
What advice would you give to others who are interested in coming to the U.S. on a J-1 Exchange Visitor Program?
“Make sure you come here with an open mind and to not be judgmental with people. You have to be open to having a conversation about your country and where you are from!”
What does your exchange experience mean to you? What impact has it had on your life?
“I am more patient now and I think cultural exchange is about exposing kids to different cultures at an early age so they will be more open to trying new things.”
What was the single most influential and meaningful experience of your J-1 Exchange Visitor Program?
“Going places by myself and trying to explain yourself in another language can be really difficult, but you have to just do it and give it a try.”
How are you using the skills and knowledge you learned from the program to enact positive change in your country and or reach/achieve your professional goals?
“I’m now wanting to start college, have improved my English, and understand how people live and work in the United States!”