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Kelsie Smart Social Health/Diversity T/TH 10-10:20

Personal Service Reflection


For my Service Learning Project I was put in the category for English Learning Students (ELS). Going into this I did not know what to expect. I had an idea that I would be helping or teaching others who did not know English very well but I did not realized that I would be learning, too. I feel like this has been as much of a learning experience for me as it has for the English learning students. English is my first language, thus it has always come natural to me. I learned about the English past, present, and future tenses as a young child and this part of the language has come naturally to me as a result. However, when I see some of the students struggling with tenses I realize how difficult it must be to come to a foreign country and learn a whole new language. Most of the students I am working with have taken English classes in their own country but say that it is much different being in America. Some of the ELS thought they knew the language pretty well until they came here and had to speak it to Americans and use the proper tenses in their English learning classes. These students have definitely opened my eyes to a much bigger world and I have gained much respect for them. After all, most of them have left everything behind, including their friends and family to come to America, get a good education, and make a better life for themselves. I was a little nervous my first day walking into the class. I let Andrew know that I was there to help. He was happy to see me which helped to calm my nerves. Andrew divided the class into 4 groups and we each took turns going from group to group, helping the students

with saying sentences in past, present, and future tense. I listened to each student and was there to assist with any questions that popped up. At times it seemed as if they didnt even need me as they were very quick to let each other know if they had made a mistake! This made me laugh a little and I was glad to see that they were excited to help each other. I could tell from the first day that they were a lovely bunch with such unique personalities; and I had no reason to be nervous and I would benefit from doing this project. Another time we got into groups and the students talked about what they liked about being in America. Most of them commented that they liked the education that they received here, making their job opportunities better in their own countries. From listening to them I was learning so much. I found there are other countries where it is not proper for a woman to take on her husbands name when they marry (thats crazy!). The time after that, we did something a little different. We divided up into groups and the students had to learn my name and then each of them had to learn something different that I liked about Utah. I loved seeing their reactions as I told them each something I enjoyed. Most of them seemed intrigued when I told them that I like to play laser tag and am on a league that gets to travel the country. Others liked that one of my hobbies is ultimate Frisbee. Soon Andrew came around and the students had to pass off what they had learned with him. Next, I had to learn the students names, what country they came here from, and why they left their country to come here. At first I was afraid that I wouldnt be able to remember all of the information for Andrews quiz later; however, as I became comfortable with the situation I was able to learn and remember just fine. It was interesting to hear all of their different names and stories.

Serah from Cambodia moved here with her husband. They came here to learn English better and want to return to their country one day with their added knowledge of the English language. Gaul Dee came to America from China. He says that learning the English language in his country is much different than in America. He explains it as being a Chinese version of English and says it has not helped him as much as he would like now that he is in America. Some of the other students with similar stories were: Teresa from Mexico, Ali from Iraq, Saud from Saudi Arabia, and Ann from China. It was fascinating to find out that Tere sas name is spelled like Teresa would be in America but is pronounced much different. Ali and Sauds names seemed to fit where they were from as well. Although it was peculiar to me to hear that Ann was from China. My last visit to the ELS Class was one of my favorites. We discussed the different holidays in the students different countries. I found out that Chile has Memorial Day on October 31, Chile and Brazil celebrate Easter the 2nd Sunday of April and they call it Pasqua, and Brazil has a holiday that is dedicated just to the teachers. This leads me to think why dont we have a teacher day here? It was also remarkable to find out that Mexico and Brazil have a Kids Day on April 30, and Japan has a Boys Day and a Girls Day. How crazy! It seems like we are missing out here in America. One of the things that really blew my mind, but makes sense now that I think about it is that Brazils summer months are our winter months and vice versa. I now know where to plan a winter retreat if I ever want to beat the cold. While a loved this experience, it didnt come without challenges. One of the major ones was understanding the students verbally. Sometimes they could talk with such a thick accent from their native countries, that it could be hard to understand them. At times I had to ask

them to repeat themselves 2 or 3 times so I could figure out what they were saying or what questions they were trying to ask me. Overall, this project has affected my community because it is shaping me into becoming a better well rounded person as part of it. Growing up in Utah I am used to being around a lot of other white people with similar education levels. However, doing this project has opened my eyes to see that there are plenty of other people around me that are all kinds of different nationalities and on all different learning levels. It helps me to be a more diversified and understanding of others specific needs. It was rewarding to pull myself out of my normal day to day routine of work, school, and play. It was nice to dedicate some time to helping others learn a language that comes so naturally to me. I feel blessed being raised in America and having English as a first language. This is something that is easy to take for granted unless you are put into situations where you can see how English does not come so simply. Being assigned to the ELS has been a very good opportunity for me and has affected me on a personal level. I know I have grown from this experience and appreciate the ability to help these students learn about America and the English language.