This is the International Institute of New Hampshire. Two years ago, I began volunteering here two nights a week, assisting the teachers in their classes. At first, it seemed that I had nothing in common with the students. They are adults who had come from all over the world, but predominantly Latin America, to live in the United States. Some spoke English reasonably well and others not so much. It makes sense. They came to class, after all, to learn to speak English. Meanwhile, I didn’t speak much of any language other than English. The first days were awkward, but following the lead and direction of Irina and Jenny, the teachers last year, I quickly felt right at home.
After a couple of months, the two nights a week at IINH were the high points of my week. No matter how tired I was when I left my job, as soon as the students arrived, I was full of energy. I recall the last night of class last spring, greeting my new friends who spoke little English and feeling just so amazed at how comfortable I now felt with them.
So how did an exploratory volunteer experience become a new career? Well, the more I worked as a volunteer teaching English, the more I enjoyed it. Part of it was enjoying working with this population. They strike me as genuinely nice people who are so grateful for the opportunities here. I was also intrigued by how one goes about teaching English to another person. Much of my success in my professional career was based on my command of the English language. In addition to volunteering in the classes, I began tutoring an Iraqi man whose physical challenges prevented him from attending classes. As time wore on, I became engrossed in this work and realized that for me volunteering was slowly becoming not enough; I wanted to teach.