From Papua New Guinea to Costa Rica, OKWU’s Spanish teacher, Kristina Arguello, knows God will use you wherever you are in life.
Eagle: Where were you born?
Arguello: I was born in Papua New Guinea. My parents were missionaries there and I lived there until I was 9.
Eagle: What was growing up in Papua New Guinea like?
Aruguello: My first 9 years, I was in and out of New Guinea. It was great! As a kid, everything was new and fun. While I was there, I remember walking around barefoot, playing in the dirt, and running around with animals. It was all very carefree. When my brother and I got old enough, we had to attend boarding school in town for a couple of years. This was very hard but a good learning experience. After a couple years of boarding school, my brother and I moved to the city with my parents. It was different, but I loved it. That is why, I think, when we moved back Bartlesville, I wanted to go back right away. Growing up I had always wanted to move to another country. It influenced me to want to teach internationally.
Eagle: Where did you move after that?
Arguello: We first moved to Minnesota for a year and then moved to Bartlesville. And we are still here.
Eagle: Where did you go after graduation?
Aruguello: I studied in Costa Rica through LASP (Latin American Studies Program with the Christian College Coalition) during college. My senior year spring break, I went to visit my host family in Costa Rica. I loved my time there, but I was not planning on going back to live. I was actually trying to find a teaching job in Indonesia because I wanted to get back to that side of the world. But it was during my spring break trip, I talked to some Wesleyan missionaries there that I had known prior to my semester in Costa Rica. They made me consider moving to Costa Rica after graduation. So I gave my résumé to an international Christian school there, was interviewed, and they asked if I wanted a job. I went back to my host family and told them that I had just been offered a job and then called my parents. While I was on the phone with my dad (Dr. Mike Fulingim), he encouraged me to take the job since it was only a year contract and not everyone gets that opportunity. Eleven years later, I was married and had my daughter (my two boys were born here in Bartlesville, later).
Eagle: How long have you been working at OKWU?
Arguello: I have been back in Bartlesville for 4 years now, and this is my first semester teaching at OKWU.
Eagle: What is your favorite part about working at OKWU?
Arguello: Both of my classes are very small so it is nice to have conversations. My philosophy for teaching Spanish is to teach culture as well. It is important to for me to communicate that it is not all about learning a language or grammar, there is a whole culture behind that influences the language. Growing up in Papua New Guinea and living in Costa Rica is a huge part of who I am, so obviously I want to share that with my students. I do get to do this to some extent at the high school where I teach, but I can expand on that even more at OKWU.
Eagle: What is the hardest part of your job?
Arguello: I am working from 7:30-2:30 at the high school, coming to OKWU right after that, and then going home to my husband and three kids. It makes an exhausting day! It’s a good challenge and it’s something I like doing.
Eagle: What is the funniest moment you had in Costa Rica?
Arguello: There are so many of those! A lot of language mistakes for sure! When I was first learning Spanish I was telling my host family a story about how I was somewhere and did something that made me embarrassed. I kept saying I was so, “’embarazada.” Finally my host mom explained to me that “embarazada” means “I am pregnant.” Here my host family was trying to figure out how to tell my American family that their daughter was pregnant!
I had another language barrier when one of my students in Costa Rica stood up to do his presentation. He had to prepare a recipe in front of the class and say everything in English. He started off by telling the class, “today I am going to prepare a chocolateator and I am going to use the spoonator” and the whole rest of the presentation went like that. The only word that it worked with was refrigerator. It was all I could do not to laugh!
Eagle: How do you think God is using you through your knowledge of teaching Spanish at OKWU?
Arguello: My experience in Costa Rica, the school I ended up in, how I first taught at a Christian school, and then working in a non-Christian culinary institute affects how I teach here. I am able to talk about cultural stuff that relates to Spanish. What it means to be a Christian teacher in different cultures and understanding the rules of each culture is challenging, but it better enables me to teach my students.
Eagle: What is one thing in your spiritual life that stands out to you that you can use to inspire your students?
Arguello: Whatever you are going to do, or wherever God has you do, persevere. Whether it’s hard or you have questions about why you are here, know that God has put you here for a reason. It’s not a matter of figuring it out, it’s about doing the best you can and knowing God is using you even if you will never know why.