News Academics

In the News: International Students Learn American Culture Through 'Baseball 101'

Nadira Kakonge watches a ball she hit during Dr. Watkin's American English Language and Culture class. Gallery below.

Photo Gallery

Reprinted with permission from Forum Communications and author Cullen Holt

It's a familiar sight: longtime Concordia college baseball coach Bucky Burgau commanding attention from a group at the school's baseball field. This time, though, it wasn't a group of ballplayers.

Instead Friday morning Burgau was addressing professor Watkin's American English Language and Culture class.

“We do some language teaching, but we’re also trying to get, what are the distinctly American things that we do?" said Concordia English professor Dr. Amy Watkin. "We thought, well baseball is America’s past time so maybe we try that."

For one day the classroom was a baseball field, the subject matter was the basic rules of the game, and the teacher was a legendary coach.

"You try to learn what you have to do, when you have to run, when you have to catch," said Aitor Burillo, a Concordia student from Mexico. "It's a little bit confusing."

Even though most of the students knew little to nothing about the sport, they were quick learners.

“It makes you feel like you’re also part of the American culture, especially when you’re so far from home," said Nadira Kakonge, a student from Uganda. "It’s nice to know you can fit in and blend in in a place that’s literally a different continent."

Concordia has swapped out ELL 112 for "baseball 101" a handful of times, but COVID-19 put a pause on the tradition for a couple of years. By the cheers and laughter coming from the combination pick-up baseball game and college lecture, it seemed everyone was happy to have it back.

“Now we have a connection, because we were on the field together, we were a team together for a short period of time," Burgau said. "Teammates greet each other. We’ll have that connection now on campus."

The group got to put their newfound baseball knowledge to good use with a trip to the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks game Friday night.

Watch the story.