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As a sophomore at the University of Hartford majoring in Marketing and minoring in Italian, Zuri studied abroad in the spring semester at John Cabot University in Rome. In addition to her studies, Zuri spent her free time as a volunteer English teacher at a local school. Below, Zuri describes a few of her favorite classroom activities (like teaching her class how to make peanut butter & jelly sandwiches!) and how volunteering has helped her rediscover her passion and truly become immersed in Italian culture.
As my time in Rome came to an end, I looked back at the experiences I had and they have all been incredible! From meeting new people to experiencing a new language, cultural ideas, places and foods, it has all been a stupendous ride. Yet one thing I truly enjoyed the most here in Italy was teaching English at a public elementary school.
One of the advisors in my study abroad program had mentioned to us that many of the kids in public schools never learn proper English because the teachers have never heard or taken any English classes. Therefore, many of the kids were pronouncing words incorrectly or using them in the wrong contexts and the teachers never corrected them. My advisor wanted to take action, so she recruited university students to work with a nearby school. My time with the kids was amazing; when I said my good-byes to them, I was not able to hold back the tears.
Every Tuesday a small group of study abroad students would meet to take a 30-minute cab drive to the Carlo Alberto Dalla Chiesa public elementary school. The 4th- and 5th-graders of Dalla Chiesa eagerly awaited our presence (and we eagerly looked forward to working with them again). Once at the school, we split up into groups of two and proceed to our classrooms. I was assigned to the 5th- grade class (along with another University of Hartford student, Taylor Clark). Our classroom consisted of sixteen 10-year olds, who are energetic, eager to learn, and delightful students.
For our first lesson, the 5th-grade students had prepared small introductions about themselves. You could tell they were nervous because they had no idea if they were pronouncing the English words correctly (since they had never heard a native English speaker before). Yet once we introduced ourselves and let them know that we were there to help them and answer any questions they had about American life, the classroom exploded with questions of “how do you say…?”, “what does it mean…?”, “why do you do this…?”, and “do you have this back home?”. They were so enthusiastic about learning--and wanted to know everything-- that we knew our 1-hour lesson was not going to be enough time!
That day they also sang their national anthem and we played ours through our laptop. This amazed all the students because they had never seen a Mac before; they all gathered around trying to catch a glimpse of it. As a treat, we let them pick songs from our itunes, and they sang and danced in their seats as they colored. We learned that they were big fans of Justin Bieber, Michael Jackson and Britney Spears. At the end of our lesson they gifted us a small Italian flag they had colored with the name and date of their school, which we hung in our apartment in Rome.
The lessons that followed were filled with more excitement from the kids as we grew to know each of them very well. For example: there are three students named Marco in the class; one out of the three is extremely shy but he slowly opened up. Then there is Samuel, who loves to make Taylor and I laugh-- his teacher calls him ‘the class clown.’ Samuel and his best friend, Gianmarco, both have ear piercings and love to disrupt the class; this results in classmates laughing but a very unsatisfied teacher. Samuel and Gianmarco sometimes have to be separated or placed in the front of the classroom. Then we have Mattei, who is one my favorites; Mattei loved to show me his 'football' (soccer) collection book that includes all the players from every team. He is a huge fan of the Roma football team and Kobe Bryant and enjoys watching American wrestling.
My favorite lesson, however, was one that dealt with American food. We brought in food supplies to make a traditional Peanut butter and Jelly sandwich with a side of Oreos. Peanut butter and grape jelly are hard to find in Italy, so we had to purchase these items in an international market. The kids were skeptical when we showed them what we were preparing for them to try. Many of them completely hated the taste of peanut butter, while a couple of the kids (one of them being Mattei) loved the combination. Mattei was actually brave enough to try an Oreo with peanut butter; he actually had several of them. In return, they made us their favorite Italian snack: Nutella (a chocolate-hazelnut butter) and bread.
The kids became such a big part of my experience studying abroad in Italy. They have given me a better understanding of their culture and traditions, they have helped improve my Italian, and most importantly, they have helped me rediscover my passion for learning new things--even if they are small!
Did you know that as a University of Hartford student, you also have the opportunity to volunteer, to study and/or or intern abroad? Go abroad for a full semester, an academic year, or during your winter or summer break! Contact Susan Carey in the Study Abroad Office for more information: firstname.lastname@example.org
You can also visit our official website: http://uhaweb.hartford.edu/intcenter/studyabroad/
Don't miss out... opportunity awaits!