Jennifer Ostrowski is practicing speaking Spanish and dancing the tango, in preparation for her trip to Argentina this summer.
The principal of Sugarland Elementary School will travel to Cordoba, Argentina, to participate in a cultural exchange program affiliated with the Fulbright program.
Loudoun County administrators had the opportunity to apply to several cultural exchange programs around the world, including Japan, Mexico and Uruguay.
"Argentina really appealed to me," Ostrowski said. "Sugarland Elementary has a very diverse population. There are many students from South America. I want to relate my experience back to my school’s students and students’ families."
THE APPLICATION process took Ostrowski many hours to complete.
"It took me about seven hours to complete, almost as long as the flight to Argentina," Ostrowski said.
She revised questions and collected recommendations from her colleagues.
Ostrowski waited two months to hear back from the Fulbright program. She was notified of her acceptance on her birthday, July 18.
"I have never done anything like this," she said. "I am hoping this will open up many doors for me, to meet new people and encourage me to do more traveling."
IN OCTOBER, Sugarland Elementary School had a visitor from Cordoba, Argentina.
Maria Victoria Morello traveled to the Sterling school to learn about the American school system. She lived with Ostrowski for three weeks in her Reston home.
"We went to different restaurants, the grocery store, went sightseeing," Ostrowsi said. "She wanted to do and see everything."
While Morello lived with Ostrowski, they spoke both English and Spanish.
"I do speak some Spanish, but I hope to learn more while I am over there," Ostrowski said. "I am practicing now."
On Morello’s first day of school, she introduced herself over the loudspeaker in English and Spanish and traveled to each classroom to meet with students face to face.
"When she was having a difficult time finding words in English, she relied on the kids to help her in Spanish," Ostrowski said.
Many Sugarland Elementary School students speak Spanish and enjoyed translating words from Spanish to English for Morello, Ostrowski said. Sugarland Elementary School has three students from Argentina.
Sugarland Elementary School vice principal Jennifer Steeprow said Ostrowski is an ideal candidate for this program.
"She really cares about the kids and always wants to learn more about different cultures," Steeprow said. "This program will allow her to do that. We have a lot of students from Central and South American countries. She believes this trip will give her some perspective on how they might have felt when they came to the United States for the first time."
IN MID-JULY, Ostrowski will move into Morello’s apartment in Cordoba, Argentina’s second largest city.
"She lives in the city and walks to school and to the grocery store," Ostrowski said. "I won’t have to worry about commuting and traffic."
Over her three weeks there, she will observe the Argentinean school system and the country’s cultural traits. She also hopes to travel to Buenos Aires and Mendoza, the country’s wine region.
"I am planning on taking tango lessons here and there, and hope to tango in Buenos Aires," Ostrowski said.
Ostrowski is looking forward to her trip to Argentina.
"I am not only representing myself, but more importantly, I am representing Loudoun County Public Schools and the American schools when I go to Argentina," she said.