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'We joke around, we laugh': Colombian Kiwis help each other adapt to school life

Cultural Conversations (thanks to sponsors JP and Ros Pochin) provide an end of the week lunch for the ESOL students at Nelson College every Friday.


Alex Montano, Jonatan and Jean Carlos Castillo, and Ronal Angulo crack jokes and practice English.
Alex Montano, Jonatan and Jean Carlos Castillo, and Ronal Angulo crack jokes and practice English. ANDY MACDONALD/STUFF

With three years of New Zealand life under his belt, Colombian-born Ronal Angulo​ has plenty of advice for newer Kiwis.


“When I came here I was really shy, I couldn’t speak English at all. People used to laugh at my accent; it was so strong,” the Nelson College year 10 student said.


“The Colombian guys in my school helped me make friends, and I started socialising a bit more.”Now, he’s doing the same for year 9 twins Jonatan and Jean Carlos Castillo​.The mentoring began after a request from the college’s head of language and ESOL, Emma Gillyon. New to the school, the twins had little English and could use some guidance, Gillyon told him.At first, Angulo was hesitant, not sure if he was the right person for the role. But after giving it a go, he was surprised at how quickly it made a difference.


“When [the twins] first came they were shy, it was like a wall went up. Now they feel safe, we joke around, we laugh.”Each week, Angulo teaches the twins basic phrases he thinks will help them better interact and integrate with teachers and peers.


“Like, what do you do after school, how was your weekend?”


He also helps them with the day-to-day of school life: how to fill in a survey, or read a timetable.


Seeing the younger boys begin to hone the skills he’d taught them felt good, Angulo said.


“It was really nice, I felt like I was helping them; it made me feel a bit better about myself.”


Each Friday, the trio is joined by other Colombian-Kiwi students for a lunch sponsored by Cultural Conversations.


“We talk about sport, make jokes, try out our English,” Angulo said.


The Friday lunch club was Gillyon’s idea, a way to connect the students in a supportive environment.Gillyon and the students were grateful for the support from Cultural Conversations, as well as cafe Jaks Island, who provided lunch platters throughout term one.


Source: STUFF, Amy Ridout16:00, Jun 10 2022

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