When I was choosing my classes for this semester, one of them just popped out of the screen: Globalization, Mobility and Education, a course in Anthropology, taught by Prof. Bartlett. Just from its title, I knew this class would bring together all of the topics I am interested in: basically, how education is intertwined more than ever with migration in today’s globalized world. I made sure to register immediately so I would secure my place in this class and headed to the first class with sheer excitement.
When Prof. Bartlett handed out the syllabus, I realized we had to choose between a policy and a pedagogy stream. Policy entailed writing a very long paper, while pedagogy meant volunteering as a tutor for the International Rescue Committee (IRC) in New York City. There was no hesitation in my mind: I chose pedagogy. Ever since that first class, I have been a tutor on the Saturday Learning Series at IRC’s midtown office, where I help elementary and high school refugee students with their homework. For two hours in the morning, I get to work with tutees from Guinea, Haiti, Tibet, and many other countries. One of the most attractive features of New York City is the vibrant diversity of its people. That I knew. However, working with these particular types of students, who have endured the extremely difficult experience of relocating to another country due to war, natural disasters or economic hardship, is a whole different story. Each Saturday means learning a little bit more about their life stories and seeing the human face of the injustices we know exist in this world. Each Saturday means looking up and thanking God for my blessings and the opportunities I have been given by my family and my country. Each Saturday means searching deep down within my soul to find comfort in the fact that, somehow, I am making a change, no matter how little it may seem in the grand scheme of things. None of this would have been possible without the inventive mind of Professor Bartlett, who came up with this wonderful idea of turning volunteerism into a class option, one that, if chosen, gives back to you in a lot more ways than just credits and grades.
Sometimes I wonder if I am helping these students or if they are helping me. Last Saturday, I was working with a boy from Haiti. I helped him with his English reading skills. In return, he reminded me why I chose to be an educator. This boy, with his huge smile and thick Caribbean accent, made me realize that, deep down, we are all the same: all of us have faced earthquakes, some literally, others figuratively. But if you look closely, you will find that one person that, maybe unknowingly, helps you get through it and put the pieces back together so that they are stronger than before. Perhaps it is an inspiring teacher from one of your graduate classes. Perhaps it is a kind roommate that listens when you are homesick. Or perhaps it is a teenage boy from the little island that could.
(Lucia Caumont is an international student from Uruguay. She is currently in the first year of the Master of Arts in Comparative and International Education, with a concentration in anthropology.)