Multiculturalism in Portland, Maine

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Last week, we welcomed our in-country coordinators to Portland for a week long summit on all things teaching abroad. We had an amazing time showing our foreign friends around our little city, filling our off hours with food, outdoor concerts, lobster boating, picnics in the park, and lots more.

As always with these meetings, our hope is to grow and better the programs that send participants far and wide to partake in culturally immersive and globalizing experiences. While we can’t deny the immense value of living abroad, we would be remiss not to mention the multiculturalism that lives in our own backyard and what we can learn from it being there.

Today we zoom in on the people and places that make Portland one of our favorite cultural hubs in the world, starting with our very own staff! Between our respective international experiences and wide array of nationalities, the CIEE represents dozens of countries and speaks numerous languages.

Sagan  kerry  allyFrom left to right: Kerry in Macedonia, Sagan in Spain, Ally in China

Among the ten team TEFL and Teach Abroad team members alone, we have lived long-term in a whopping 23 different countries and speak eight languages collectively! Our coordinators have brought back tokens of culture from their time living in (deep breath) Denmark, China, Canada, Morocco, Kuwait, Jordan, Spain, Chile, the Philippines, Palestinian Territories, Egypt, France, Hungary, Ukraine, Russia, Italy, Mexico, Costa Rica, Macedonia, Israel, New Zealand, South Korea, and Peru!

We are also able to converse in Mandarin, Arabic, French, Spanish, English, Russian, Macedonian, or Albanian. And this doesn’t even include our in-country coordinators who were here last week (but that list might be too long for a single blog post)!

Maxine  molly  emmyFrom left to right: Maxine in Ukraine, Molly in Jordan, Emmy in France

Outside of the organization, Portland is home to a growing immigrant population. Did you know Portland has the largest Sudanese immigrant population in the United States? The Portland Press Herald also reported that Central Africans have become the city’s fastest-growing immigrants group. Portland has provided refuge for immigrants and important cultural exchange for locals, sometimes in the form of language groups.

Portland’s public school system plays a leading role in promoting the city’s multiculturalism. The Multilingual and Multicultural Center within Portland Public Schools facilitates language retention and acquisition for non-native English speakers and students learning Arabic, French, Latin, Mandarin, and Spanish. Deering High School showcases their cultural diversity each year with their “Best of Both World” talent show.

Our HQ’s city is also home to a number of language schools and programs. Lyseth Elementary School is steadily growing its Spanish Immersion Program and La Petite Ecole offers a French language program for pre-school and kindergarteners. The Language Exchange also offers language classes and social events in over twelve languages!

Turns out our participants aren’t the only travel and culture addicts here. We are lucky that Portland’s thriving multiculturalism can feed our appetites for cultural immersion by offering language and exchange opportunities. We're also lucky that of all the places we could have ended up in the world, we are all right here in Portland. Cheers to this amazing multicultural hub!

IMG_7438The TEFL and Teach Abroad team (with other CIEE friends!)

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