As leaves begin to change and the autumn breeze briskly sweeps through the University of Nevada, Reno campus, three Fulbright Scholars from Argentina anticipate celebrating the American tradition of Halloween for the first time.
The scholars, who will be in Reno through the spring, are excited about the customs that come with Halloween and have fully immersed themselves in the holiday events, including a haunted corn maze, pumpkin decorating, Zombie Crawl and the Slaughter House Haunted House.
"It's an exchange - we are giving you our culture and we are receiving yours as well," Agustina Almirón said.
The Latino Research Center at the University welcomes Almirón, Ludmila Tugues and Diego Tolaba. Inspired by cultural inclusion, education, family and the Latino community, the Fulbright Scholar recipients continue to strengthen the University community.
The Fulbright Program is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and is intended to create mutual understanding between the people of the United States and people of other countries. Fulbright recipients are chosen each year for their merit and leadership potential and are given the opportunity to study, teach and conduct research in exchange for ideas and solutions for shared international concerns.
Emma Sepúlveda is a professor in the world languages and literature department and director of the Latino Research Center. In 2014, Sepúlveda was appointed to the 12-member J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board by President Obama and has been working to select students, scholars and teachers for the Fulbright International Education Exchange Program since.
"Fulbright is just an amazing program all over the world," Sepúlveda said. "The scholars will be ambassadors for our University, our town and our country when they return to Latin America. They will be one of reasons why the people of Argentina will change their perception of America."
The Fulbright scholars - who each attended teacher training or graduated from a university in Latin America within the last few years - work as assistant teachers and put on free tutoring workshops for University students. Their ultimate goal is to bringing back techniques, strategies of teaching and insights into American culture to their students in Argentina.
"I show my students facts about the world, different cultures, customs and different ways of approaching life," Tugues, a San Nicolas, Argentinian native who grew up in a humble and hardworking family, said. "We carry a huge responsibility on our shoulders, giving our students tools to build their future and teaching them to think in a critical way."
Working for the Latino Research Center has given Tugues the ability to improve her English including grammar, vocabulary and usage, to indulge in American culture, to deepen her knowledge of history, literature and geography and to be a cultural ambassador teaching people about her country.
Almirón is a language teacher from Buenos Aires and has been inspired by the English language and culture since she was nine years old.
Almirón said teaching a completely new language to students is not just about teaching the mechanics of the language, but showing students the opportunities that come from interacting with people who are different than themselves.
"I am ready to share my culture through the teaching of my country's traditions and customs, to share my knowledge of the language through the telling of personal stories and anecdotes, to make my thoughts clear as well as accept others' ideas, Almirón said. "Working and living in a new country is changing my life and making me a better person; I want to change the world in a very positive way."
The third scholar, Tolaba, earned his degree in teaching English as a foreign language from the Instituto de Eduacion Superior No. 5 in 2012. Tolaba's favorite part on campus is the Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center where he said he has a lot of admiration for the resources students have available to them at the University of Nevada, Reno.
The scholars arrived in Reno this last summer and moved into on-campus housing. They have visited many area attractions including Lake Tahoe, Virginia City, Sacramento, Calif., and a conference at Stanford University.
"The three Fulbrighters we have here are incredible," Sepúlveda said. "They have some strengths that are admirable. They are willing to do whatever it takes; they are very excited to do whatever you ask them to do; they are hungry for learning and teaching. They are just so thankful for the opportunity and they feel so blessed to get the Fulbright honor."
The scholars will participate in the Latino Research Center's Dia de los Muertos Sunday, Nov. 1, in the Joe Crowley Student Union, Milt Glick Ballroom. For more information about the Center, go to the Latino Research Center website.