From living with a family of five, to sharing a suite with seven other men, Cristian Yopla, Castleton State College’s new Spanish teaching assistant has experienced it all. The resident of Cajamarca, Peru, now occupies half a room in Haskell Hall.
The United States Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs sponsors a program called Foreign Language Teaching Assistant that is overseen and managed by the Institute of International Education. IIE distributed copies of Yopla’s application for a teaching assistant program to a number of universities across the U.S.
The purpose of this program is to spread diversity throughout America as well as provide foreigners such as Yopla, the experiences of a new place and culture.
After Yopla’s graduation from the National University of Cajamarca, CSC selected him to become the new Spanish teaching assistant. Although he has not always been fond of English, his private school teacher Susy, inspired him to pursue English in college.
Students can now find Yopla standing at the front of Spanish 1 classes. He feels powerful because Spanish is his main language and it comes natural to him. It’s not just the power and authority that drives him, but the love for teaching.
“I think I like all about teaching, except for one thing; the evaluation part. It’s really important, it’s really necessary. But sometimes also really exhausting, but really mechanical just writing grades and grades,” Yopla said with a heavy Peruvian accent.
Colleen Jenkins, a current student of Yopla, was very enthusiastic and positive when discussing him.
“Cristian has been really friendly and easy going. He seems excited to be here,” Jenkins said. “He definitely enjoys teaching and is both patient and understanding. As a student who has never taken Spanish before, that’s important to me! I’m learning a lot and am looking forward to learning more as the semester continues.”
One of the biggest differences between Peru and the United States is the education. It is not necessarily the education in schools, but the education the youth receive at home.
With hands waving in the air and a chuckle, Yopla explains “Everyone here says hello, hi. They look very happy. But this doesn’t happen in Peru, where you may say hi or good morning and they may just ignore you. I see a lot of respect in the streets from the car divers. It’s a good thing they stop when we are going to cross the street, it’s a great thing. It really makes a difference, the education of the Americans.”
Yopla continues his education outside of the classroom by mingling in with suittemates and just from being where the students are on campus.
“I really like to be here in Haskell, because it makes me feel close to the students. And I learn from them also,” he said.
Students find it intriguing that Yopla mingles with the students outside of the classroom by living with them, something uncommon for professors.
“I think it’s pretty cool that he lives on campus. I mean I don’t know him personally but it must be interesting for him and the students he lives with. He is a teacher, yet he understands what their day and life is like while they also can help him adjust to life here,” sophomore Meghan Els said.