If there has been any simple truth I have learned, it is that kids across the world are all pretty similar. They all run around crazily and say weird things. They all love meeting new teachers. There are shy kids and rambunctious kids. I had never, however, worked with kids in a different language. Volunteering to teach English at the local elementary school in Siena gave me just that opportunity.
When I first walked in, I was bombarded with questions of all kinds from “Do you like Italian fashion?” and “Do you like basketball?” to “Do you like Donald Trump?” These kids were communicating with me as best they could in a language foreign to them. A young second grader pointed at a book excitedly, exclaiming “Book!” In all honesty, it reminded me of my first week learning Italian. Beyond the funny things though, I was overwhelmed by the sensation that I could not communicate very well with these kids. If they needed something, I would have a hard time helping them. I felt kind of useless- I had never felt so incompetent and uncomfortable around kids.
Over time though I have figured out my place and have become more confident in introducing new games. I get to watch these kids run around shouting out colors in English, miming animals, and singing goofy songs in English. I’ve gotten to eat lunch with them (which in and of itself is a completely different world from American school lunch!) and get to know them. Experiencing culture at face value in another country is great, but experiencing culture through volunteering has given me a view into the real lives across the globe. I have gotten experience working with kids of a different culture. It has enabled me to improve my Italian and gain the skill of teaching English as a foreign language. I was thrown into the culture to almost an uncomfortable point, and it could not have turned out better.
Siena School for Liberal Arts student