For those of you who don’t know me, I’m Krista Klocke, a Junior in Speech Communication and Communication Studies. In the Honors Program, I’m an Honors Ambassador and an Undergraduate Assistant. I haven’t been studying abroad this summer like a lot of the Honors students, but I have had an exciting summer anyway.
While it may not be evident at first glance, Ames has a diverse international population – Iowa State has students from 103 countries. Along with visiting scholars and their families and the international students at ISU, Ames is also home to refugees from war-torn countries (especially South Sudan). My church here in Ames, Memorial Lutheran, has a thriving International Student Ministry (ISM) Program and provides free English classes, resources, a conversational partner program, and Bible studies for the international population here in Ames.
During my Freshman year, I was a conversational partner through ISM for three women visiting scholars from Taiwan and Thailand. During my Sophomore year, I was a conversational partner to a woman from China. This summer, I worked as an ISM Peer Minister and was mainly responsible for teaching 3rd-7th grade kids’ Bible class while their parents were in English classes. I also helped out in the ISM office, worked on the weekly ISM newsletter, and met and talked to people from many different countries.
I did the same work last summer, so this year I had a better idea of what to expect (anything and everything); I knew what the teaching would be like (you never know how many kids there will be and what their ages will be); and I was ready to relax and have as much fun as possible. After a school year with a rigid schedule and expectations, the flexibility of my work this summer was freeing. My daily class sizes ranged from two to eleven kids, and the kids’ ages ranged from seven to thirteen years old. The kids I worked with are from the countries of China, South Korea, South Sudan, and Peru. Their English skills ranged from native fluency to having barely any English-speaking skills. A few of the things I learned from teaching this summer and last summer are:
- Lesson planning is a real-life skill (2013 FHP Leaders – it’s true!).
- Flexibility is key!!! (While you may end up having a 20 minute discussion, DO NOT plan on it.)
- You’re never too old to color.
- Charades skillz come in handy when you don’t speak the other person’s language, and they don’t speak yours.
- When kids say things like, “It’s too hot to play outside,” balloons solve everything. (A balloon also makes a satisfactory class pet named “Fish Sticks”/“Noah”).
- Homemade brownies are an acceptable snack, and yes, you can have thirds.
- A cleaning project the secretary gives your class can be creatively re-branded as a “fun service project”.
- It’s always a good idea to make a list of class rules on the first day. “Have fun” is a very good rule.
Something that the kids (and I) would look forward to all week long, was Water Day. On Water Day, we would take the kids (nursery – 7th grade) to the back yard, turn on a sprinkler, and hand them some buckets. The kids LOVED Water Day. They especially liked to try to throw as many buckets of water as possible on us (the adults) before it was time to turn off the water. I’m not sure the kids even realized that I always had just as much fun as they did!
I also was able to meet some of the adults coming for English classes and have conversations with them. One of the women, a visiting Statistics Professor from Turkey, invited me to her home for a traditional Turkish meal for Ramadan. I was one of two American guests, along with two guests from Egypt. It was such an amazing opportunity to experience homemade Turkish food, talk about Turkish and Egyptian culture, hear more about their beliefs and traditions, and discuss some of the idiosyncrasies of English. That experience is a good illustration of my favorite part of my job – making friendships.
My work this summer has been a wonderful blessing to me. I learned a lot and also grew in my faith. The relationships I’ve made this summer with the kids and other students were so much fun and are something I definitely miss now that I’m done. As a Speech Communication and Communication Studies double major, learning about and interacting with people from other cultures is soooooo cool to me! This summer has made me even more excited about the Intercultural Communication class that I’ll be taking next year. The ISM program for adults at Memorial continues into the school year – so if you ever want to learn more about the program, teach an English class, or have an international conversational partner, ask me!