My volunteering experience in Nepal: Ivana Mijonic
When I applied for a 3-month teaching program as a volunteer with VIN in Nepal, I thought, “How different can it be from teaching at home?” I had taught English and music before. The only thing that worried me was not speaking their language, but I figured it could be solved with drawings and mimes.
After I arrived in Nepal, I started teaching at Nagarjun Thulagaon Secondary School, in the outskirts of Kathmandu. Classes 5, 6, and 7 were assigned to me, and I realized I was right; teaching here wasn’t so different. Children are the same everywhere; they prefer to play than practice grammar.
The only surprise was the condition of the school building. The original building had been damaged by the 2015 earthquake and not safe for use, so the classes were conducted in a temporary building made of metal panels, without doors or windows, and the classrooms were very small with hardly any space between the benches. In the beginning I found this challenging and it took me a while to get used to, especially because the voices from other classrooms could be heard and posed a problem while communicating with students. And, I would wonder, “How did the kids study like this for the past 4 years?”
Nonetheless, I persevered and in these three months we got to know each other, learned new things, had fun, read some interesting stories, and prepared for exams. I tried to make classes fun by introducing games to the students while following the curriculum provided.
I realized that speaking and pronunciation was the main problem for most students, so I tried to work on that. A lot of them started speaking more freely, which is a big step. I really hope I could make a difference.
My time in Nepal gave me the opportunity to learn about Nepali culture, visit many places in the Kathmandu valley and outside, and try different dishes. And, staying in a village with a Nepali family gave me insights that I would never be able to gain if I had visited Nepal as a tourist. For me, the most interesting experiences were celebrations in the community, like Pujas and weddings.
Looking back, I am glad I didn’t apply for a shorter program, as I wouldn’t get to know the students as well as I know them now and my experience would have been different. As I write this I have one more day of volunteering, and saying goodbye to my students today was difficult. I will sure miss them and this beautiful country!
Project: Teaching English in Community School