English was not my first language. I started learning English when I was merely 3 years old. However, it is sometimes still hard for me to keep up with my friends and professors when they are speaking in English. The students at the Refugee Center are all adults; most are older than 30. It is very hard for them to learn a very different language as adults when they have classmates from different countries and a teacher who does not speak their language. I admire them for taking this difficult challenge of learning English.
I met a student called Giorghi at the refugee center. He is in Teacher Shannon's class, which is the lowest level English class. Giorghi is from Moldova, and in the beginning of the semester his wife Sofia was in the same class. However, the teachers felt that Sofia was progressing much faster than Giorghi, and that he was relying too much on her. After a few weeks, Sofia was moved to the intermediate level class. Giorghi seemed sad in the beginning because he was all alone surrounded entirely by students from Burma. But as the semester continued, Giorghi started participating more and more and despite being the only non-Burmese student in the class, he was quite popular with his classmates.
I remember the first time I interacted with Giorghi. Teacher Shannon had asked me to help him with identifying different objects in the room. We started with chair, desk, window, and door. Although Giorghi understood that what he was sitting on was chair, he pronounced it "ger." I continued to say "chair" and repeated myself quite a few times. But Giorghi kept on repeating "ger." I quickly realized that Giorghi had a difficult time pronouncing words. He understood concepts and identified words very quickly, but somehow the word he was trying to pronounce didn't come out as he expected. But despite getting frustrated a couple of times Giorghi kept on trying until finally he was able to say "chair." As soon as he successfully pronounced "chair," he put a big smile on his face and extended his hand to thank me.
It took us almost ten minutes to pronounce the word "chair." Even though those ten minutes were probably very frustrating to the both of us, the satisfaction that Giorghi felt when he was finally able to do it made me realize what a great opportunity I had as a SHINE volunteer. Since that day, every time I enter Teacher Shannon's classroom, Giorghi always stands up and waves with a big smile on his face. He always shows me what they have been doing in class during the rest of the week and asks me to help him pronounce words. I don't want to sound corny, but in a way, Giorghi made me realize how much the students depend on us.
As the semester continued, I usually helped the students on the right side of the class, Giorghi being one of them. We covered concepts such as opposites (inside-outside, hot-cold, up-down), the difference between on and in, and the different seasons. It took quite a while for everyone to firmly grasp the concept (and I'm not entirely sure that half the times they all did). As a result, I personally feel that the biggest accomplishment for me during this semester was learning to be patient and becoming comfortable with silence. I remember professor Britt-Hysell warning us that there were going to be many times where we would not get any response from the student. Luckily, she warned us that that when that happened we should just let it happen.