I had an academic day of volunteering yesterday. The morning started with a classroom of young graduate students preparing for the start of their careers. Then I finished in the afternoon with a roomful of elders in the twilight of life. Both were seeking to improve themselves through learning. Unfortunately for them, one of the people teaching them that day was me.
The graduate class made for a really fun and thought-provoking morning. I was a guest speaker at Anglo-American University, located in a beautiful area near the famous Charles Bridge in Prague. My new friend, Linda, had asked me to attend the class she teaches on cultural diversity. Being around these young students took me back to my own days in graduate school. I remember the feeling of freedom that came with being out of the corporate world and back in the classroom. The group had some really insightful comments, which got me thinking about the cultural experience our family has undertaken during this trip. The discussion led me to evaluate how we’ve adapted along the way, the cultural shifts that were easy to make, and those that have been harder to handle.
After the class ended, I walked across the Charles Bridge (a classic Prague experience) and arrived at my next volunteer task of the day – assisting in an English language course at a local senior center. This group of lifelong learners was a cultural experience in and of itself. Unlike the young graduate students, they were very quiet and formal. The instructor introduced me and I tried my best to talk very slowly and clearly – not my typical mode of communication. Then we went through a few exercises where they were supposed to ask me questions and I was told to correct them on their grammar. That was a little awkward for me. Nice girls don’t admonish their elders when they say “Does your children did enjoy to travel?” I just wasn’t raised that way.
Despite the awkward moments, it was a good day and very different from the other volunteer work we’ve done. The morning made me appreciate the cultural learning our family is experiencing, and the afternoon made me appreciate the fact that I don’t have to learn English. Hearing it through the ears of a learner made me realize it is a complicated language to master. I have empathy and respect for those working to learn our language and its many exceptions and grammatical anomalies.
We’ve now made it into the teens with our service projects! The work is starting to ramp up and I’m hopeful we will find a lot more ways to engage in the community when we get to Ireland next week.