27 Dec 2017

Learning to Teach – Volunteering at Welcommon

When Jayla had envisioned herself studying abroad in Athens, she saw herself climbing up to the Acropolis and taking trips to different countries. She did not see herself teaching English every Wednesday for two hours to a Sudanese journalist who had written something seen as unfavorable within the country and was consequently expelled.

However, like many other CYA students who decide to volunteer during their time abroad, her mindset was “Why not?” After expressing her interest to the Nadia Meliniotis, the Executive Director of Student Affairs, Jayla was introduced to Welcommon, an innovative, model community center for accommodations to refugees based in Exarchia, a neighborhood that is a quick 30 minute walk from here in Pangrati.

Through volunteering, Jayla states that she “gets a sense of what the refugee crisis is actually like,” supplementing the discussions her class Modern Athens: Space, Art and Urban Cultures frequently hold on the subject. To her surprise, it has not only allowed her to experience the refugee crisis up close and personal, but also to learn more about herself and other cultures. She has fostered a relationship with someone she would have otherwise never met, and as she teaches him English, he returns the favor by teaching her Arabic, his native language, and even some Greek.

Jayla learned that teaching English can be challenging, admitting that “I didn’t think it’d be hard to teach English but it is… it was definitely a learning process.” However, she finds it rewarding that she’s helping someone else and knowing that he is benefitting from the time she puts in makes it work.

As her time volunteering is coming to an end, she reflects on her experience, ultimately stating that “it [was] a great experience and would encourage other people to do it because you learn a lot about other people, cultures, and yourself.”

Learn more about  Welcommon.