One of my favorite core values held at Nyack College is to be “Globally Engaged.” From the beginning of Nyack’s foundation in 1882, the school has been intentional about interacting and connecting with cultures and countries all over the world. Seeing that Nyack was originally a missionary training institute, it seems fitting that those values hold strong to this day. And for someone who loves traveling as much as I do, I knew coming to Nyack would be a catapult for opportunities to study and teach abroad.
Which brings me to one of the most incredible experiences I have ever had in my entire life (sounds dramatic – but it’s true). In May of 2014, I got to travel to Paris, France. A group of students from Nyack and I applied and were selected to attend the first Envision International Leadership Summit. While I could spend hours and hours and hours talking about how life-altering and captivating the trip was (see highlight video here), I’d like to focus on one day specifically when I got to use my interest and experience in TESOL at a school just outside Paris.
During the middle of the week, the Envision site coordinator, Tony Roos, came up to me after one of our sessions and asked me if I’d like to spend an afternoon trying to build some connections with a school about 45 minutes outside of Paris and help teach some kids English. At that moment I don’t think I realized how incredible of an opportunity it was going to be for me. I was eager to be exposed to French education and catch a glimpse of the infamously romantic countryside. I was in!
A few others in the group were also interested in this opportunity. We spent our afternoon at a nearby Starbucks (SO expensive!!), planned some fun games, and selected what we were going to teach the kids.
Here’s a little background on where we were headed. It wasn’t just an ordinary institution, and I think that’s what enticed me the most. It was a Catholic-run boarding school for at-risk children coming from abusive homes. The group we were going to work with was actually the children’s choir for the school; they were set to travel to the U.S. for the first time to perform alongside another youth choir from Florida that they had built a relationship with over the past year. In need of some basic conversation skills, we spent the afternoon teaching the children how to say simple phrases like, “Hello, my name is…” and “I am ___ years old” and “I am from ____,” accompanied by much energy and laughter.
But knowing how God works, it was so much more than just a day spent teaching English. We purposely arrived at the school a little early so we would be able to explore the grounds and meet some of the teachers. It was so humbling and moving to see their devotion and love for their students. The kids were not an easy bunch, so I knew that these teachers were the real deal – hardworking, motivated, and faithful. Thinking about it now still makes me emotional. Knowing that this school exists to create a safe, healthy, and productive space for these students was incredibly inspiring – I still dream to this day about working there!
As we rode the train back into Paris, I just kept daydreaming about those kids, praying that their futures would prove better than their current circumstances. I am so grateful that I got to have this special day to taste what it would be like to teach in another country. Everything about France was dreamy and motivating – mark my words, I’ll be back!
(If you want to watch a short video of the students singing in English, click here!)