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July 24, 2006
DeKalb, Ill. — Spanish instructor Kerry Chermel in the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures at Northern Illinois University is saying adios to the flat cornfields of DeKalb.
Chermel has received a prestigious Fulbright Teacher Exchange grant and will spend the fall semester at Universidad Nacional de Cuyo, located at the foot of the Andes in the busy and beautiful city of Mendoza, Argentina. She will teach two sections of American literature at the university.
“I had lived in Spain before and really wanted to have the experience again of living in another culture,” Chermel said. “For a Spanish teacher, it’s essential to have these kinds of experiences. They broaden your knowledge of the language and of the culture.”
The Fulbright Teacher Exchange program is highly competitive. About 170 U.S. citizens will travel abroad through the program during the coming school year.
“We’ve had student exchanges before but this is the first teacher exchange that I’m aware of in our department,” said Anne Birberick, chair of Foreign Languages and Literatures.
“Kerry wanted to pursue this, and she had the full support and backing of the department,” Birberick added. “These grants aren’t easy to get because applicants must be highly qualified and also must find someone who’s willing to swap schedules and is a good match.”
As part of the exchange, Professor Amparo Argerich of the Universidad Nacional de Cuyo will arrive at NIU next month and assume Chermel’s teaching responsibilities, which include four sections of Spanish.
Argerich will have her family in tow. She will take up residence with her husband and their two children in International House—a wing of Douglas Hall that houses the Foreign Language Residence Program, the political science/public service floor and a wide array of international students and domestic students with international interests.
“She’ll be right in the thick of the International House activities,” Birberick said. “It’s nice to have someone who is from another country come to NIU and teach our students because native speakers add cultural depth and breadth to our programs.”
Students benefit in other ways as well, she said.
“These exchanges improve our teachers’ linguistic ability and deepen their cultural knowledge,” Birberick added. “The teachers can bring back authentic materials for the classroom that enrich the learning experience. And we also get the opportunity to learn about a different educational system with different approaches to teaching.”
The Fulbright Program, America’s flagship international educational exchange, is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. The program operates in more than 150 countries worldwide.