Iowa State University
Department of English


TESL/Applied Linguistics: Projects

Life as a Second Language, A Simulation


Funded by the Iowa Department of Education

Project Team: Roberta Vann, TESL/AL Professor, Elena Cotos, ALT PhD student, Katherine Richardson-Bruna, Curriculum and Instruction Assistant Professor.


The objective of this project is to help Iowa educators gain insight into the challenges of being newcomers in a school system and experience what helps and hinders these endeavors. The experience involves particpants taking on the roles of immigrant families as they travel to the city of Polyopolis, where they are assigned a series of tasks such as registering children in school, finding housing, buying stamps, taking care of health problems, and completing forms. All tasks must be negotiated witth native-speakers in more than a dozen languages—none of which is English.


On April 2, 2007, nearly 100 members of the Dept of Education experienced Polyopolis. Staff members included TESL/AL M.A. students: Nadia Jaramillo, Monica Lopez, Edna Lima and Ghinwa Alameen, a graduate of the TESL/MA program, Lavinia Hirsu, and ALT Ph.D. students: Maja Grgurovic and Karina Silva. Barbara Schwarte, Director of IEOP also assisted along with 17 IEOP volunteer staff who used the opportunity for service learning.