Gonzalo Diaz is an International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) alum from Argentina who traveled to eastern Iowa for a program entitled “American language and Multi-Cultural Diversity” in March 2023. Gonzalo was one of 23 educators from all over the world who participated in the program, each teacher coming from a different country. Gonzalo says participating in the IVLP program was an honor because Argentina usually sends teachers from large cities, like Buenos Aires, to the United States—Gonzalo is from a smaller city in northern Argentina.
Upon arriving to the United States, the group visited Washington D.C. to start learning about the American education system. Afterwards, the teachers were split into two groups to travel to different parts of the U.S., with Gonzalo headed to Iowa City. As an English teacher, Gonzalo was excited to visit the University of Iowa because of its literature and writing culture.
While at the University of Iowa, Gonzalo visited the Foreign Language Department, where he was exposed to objects, clothing, and cultural devices from all around the world. Off-campus, one of the most impactful experiences was Gonzalo’s visit to the West Liberty Community School District in West Liberty. With West Liberty having a large Hispanic population, their school district houses a Spanish language program where Gonzalo would like to collaborate because he believes collaboration is essential for teachers.
“I need to share what I lived through and what I experienced with other teachers. I need to help them know that a classroom’s walls have crumbled down, and we need to connect, collab, and think in a new way about education. Thanks to technology, we have new opportunities,” he said.
Now that some political uncertainty has been resolved in Argentina, Gonzalo hopes to maintain his relationships with the people he met at West Liberty by volunteering with the school and second language programs to offer Spanish assistance and share about his culture.
At West Liberty, Gonzalo also saw the participation of parents and other outside resources in schools, which is something he says is hard to organize in Argentina due to legal issues. Nevertheless, it inspired Gonzalo to find a way to host interactions in Argentina between students and the outside world.
Now back in Argentina, Gonzalo incorporates his experiences from Iowa City into his classroom. As an avid art lover, he captured many images of Iowa City’s street art and murals to show his family, friends, and students. The students were then tasked with creating their own murals, which Gonzalo jokingly said all featured Lionel Messi. Gonzalo also tried to find websites that ship free brochures from the United States, giving them to his students so they can analyze the language and pictures.
A special part of the IVLP experience also included dinners in households around Iowa City, exposing Gonzalo to the local community.
“When they told me that I was going to Iowa City, I did a little bit of research and I got to know a bit about the city,” he said. “But there are no words to share the whole experience and one of the greatest things that I felt was the warmth of the people there — the families that offered dinner, the way that we talked and the time that we shared.”
Though the temperatures in Iowa City were the coldest of all the cities he visited, it is the location that holds the warmest memories from his IVLP program and gave him many valuable professional experiences.