By Leah Hodge

At first, sitting in on a typing class and an ESOL class at the Irish International Immigrant Center was a daunting task.  I was fearful that I wouldn’t be welcomed, that I wouldn’t understand the students, that they wouldn’t understand me.  However, the welcome I received was nothing short of incredible.  Big smiles shone on the students’ faces as I was introduced, but they quickly turned back to their computers.  BBC computer games were playing on the screens, and many students had pieces of paper covering their hands to train them to look at the screen while typing.  They were laughing and smiling, and clearly enjoying the games, as well as learning a new and exciting skill.  I walked around and asked some questions, tested out the little French that I know, and realized that they were welcoming me with open arms into their society.  The ESOL class was just as exciting.  I helped two ladies, one from Albania and the other from El Salvador, and the experience warmed my heart.  Here were these two women, middle aged and certainly with children and/or families, and they were trying so earnestly to learn English.  For a young college student who does not know much of the world, meeting this people and being with them, if only for a few hours, ended up being an unsurpassable experience.

A Peek into an ESOL Class

The students of Julie Desmond’s Beginner ESOL class found their normal seats and awaited their teacher’s arrival.  Upon learning of her absence, their disappointment was palpable.  It was the last class of the season, and they had brought a cake and a card for their dedicated teacher.  They were excited, however, at the arrival of their substitute teacher, Diana Crane, and laughed as she explained what the word “substitute” meant.  They took out their homework assignments and handed them in, and then went straight to work.  The class worked on a few different worksheets, all having to do with household problems and chores.  They listed different verbs on the whiteboard and conjugated them into the past tense.  It was clear that this new language was confusing, but every student was patient and focused, and their confidence in their new skill was growing.  As a first time volunteer, to see these middle aged immigrants so dutifully learning a new and complicated language was incredible.  These people have lives and jobs that are not easy, but they still take the time a few nights a week to come to the Irish International Immigrant Center and learn.  The excitement of these people was truly incredible, and it was an experience that changed this volunteer’s view on many things and made her thankful for all that she has.