Exchange student from Costa Rica practices English, while teaching others Spanish

<p>Maria teaches third and fourth-grade students conversational Spanish.</p>

Maria Quesada, an exchange student from Costa Rica, came to Iowa to practice her English, but she's also helping local students learn Spanish along the way.

Maria's host family, the Fetchos from Bloomfield, had visited Costa Rica before and offered to host a student if one willing came along.

"Her English teacher had come to visit with a group to see what the Midwest is like and I said, 'hey, if you ever have any students that want to come and help with my Spanish class, great!'" said Katie Fetcho. "And so [Maria] was in her class and said that she was a really good student and said she would love to help the kids develop a new language."

Maria has been studying English since she was young, so when the opportunity came to stay with Katie and her family, she said yes without a second thought.

"Even though you can really understand a culture or a language, you are not complete until you live in it, so that encouraged me to come here," she said. "The chance presented, so I took it."

Katie holds a Spanish class for Bloomfield students preschool through high school out of her basement. This is the second year she's been teaching, but this year, the kids have the opportunity to learn from a native Spanish speaker.

"She actually really encourages us to just try to do it all in Spanish and see how they develop the language and it's been really neat," said Katie.

The class incorporates total physical response, where the students are given a command and respond with actions, which makes learning the language even easier. Of course, it doesn't hurt that Maria is there to offer insight and corrections.

"It's pretty cool," said student Sophia Young. "Someone from a different country coming to Iowa and the USA."

"If we say a different thing wrong, she'll help us and we know the right way to say it," added Kallie Greiner.

"She just helps us with our Spanish, it's really fun having her around," added Olivia Grove.

"We've also learned that we use a lot of language that she doesn't use," said Chloe Fetcho. "Like sometimes there's a word we think we use and she'll tell us she's never used it."

Maria, who wants to be an industrial engineer in Costa Rica after school, said she also learns from the kids.

"They really try hard to learn and since I'm a teenager and they're kids, we both can learn," she said.

And her advice for students around the world? If you have the opportunity to learn a new language or culture, challenge yourself and go for it.

"Don't be afraid, just do it," she said. "If you can, do it."