Long Time No Update!

Hello everyone-long time, no talk! 


It has been almost a month since my last update and lately, I have been feeling a little guilty about it. Betsy, you should really sit down and write. Betsy stop being lazy write a blog post. BETSY JUST DO IT ALREADY.


It was actually my good friend Kevin Wenger who pushed me over the edge. He messaged me earlier this week asking for an update and was like "I could probably read your blog" and I had to say well no you couldn't. SO, update time.


First of all, part of the reason I haven't written is because in the last month I have gotten busy! Which, as many of you know, is the situation in which I thrive. But, it does hamper my writing process which requires some 'bored time' to generate ideas. And generally, I have had a hard time coming up with things to write!

I have had many questions from friends and family about my daily life. So, I will give you a little taste. 

My schedule changes every day and usually week to week. I usually go to the university in the morning between 8 and 9:30am. For my first two months, I kept sleeping through my alarm because I was so exhausted, so mornings were actually terrible. But now, they are very nice. I try to wake up an hour or two before I am supposed to be at work to give myself time to slowly wake up, eat a nice breakfast, and go over lesson plans for the day.


At the university, I am basically teaching spoken and written English classes. And every day is a new adventure. This semester, I have taught about American politics, Islam, implicit bias, academic integrity, intercultural communication, and of course Halloween and Thanksgiving. I am getting to the point where it doesn't take long to create lectures and I can often reuse parts of lectures from earlier classes so it is much easier than it used to be. 

I usually finish at the university around 2 or 3pm. On Mondays, I sometimes run a speaking club with high school students and on Wednesdays, I usually do a lecture in the Political Science department. Then, on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, I teach at a language school in town called the Giraffe Club. 


The Giraffe Club has been an extremely challenging and rewarding experience. My job is to teach these kids English so we do a little grammar, but mostly we play games. The Ukrainian education system is largely based on rote memorization. So, for many of my students (of all ages), they really appreciate doing something new- debates, games, acting, we do it all! I also love it because the kids I teach on Mondays and Wednesdays have a relatively low level of English. It can be extremely difficult to communicate sometimes but it also gives me a chance to practice my Russian and it forces the kids to actually speak English (because we have no other choice!) 


On Tuesdays and Thursdays, I go to the local Window on America which is at the library to participate in a speaking club. The Window on America is a partner of America House in Kyiv which is funded through the Embassy. Their goal is to increase English speaking and also share American culture. This group is also fun because 1) I don't have to plan anything and 2) I get to meet older people, of all levels of English, but who have a serious motivation to learn and practice the language. 


On Mondays and Fridays, I have my own Russian language lessons. My wonderful tutor comes to my apartment and for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours we practice grammar, pronunciation, and I try to get a hold of this VERY difficult language. 


On the weekends, I do what I didn't get done during the week. I try to plan lessons ahead of time, send out homework, and I meet with friends and students. Some weekends I travel, (I am going back to Oleksandriia this weekend!!!) but I still don't love traveling on my own because of my slow language learning. 


While everything sounds perfect, I will not lie, I have difficult moments. I am moving into the 'Acceptance' state of culture shock but it is still hard sometimes to be so far from home and to be in a place where I don't always feel like I 'fit'. 


I am also recently struggling with my own disposition as a solutions oriented person. One of my favorite 'hobbies' so to speak, for as long as I can remember is identifying problems and finding solutions. My brain is constantly questioning the situation I am in...is this the best solution for the problem (here, in the States, at Luther...doesn't matter where!) But whereas at home, I always felt like I could make changes to the things I saw that weren't working here, I can sometimes feel powerless.


First, I am an American so I don't feel like it is always my place to point out problems or to suggest solutions. Second, so many of the things I see here that I would like to try to find solutions for are cultural, societal, or institutional. Things that are not easy to change. 


So, I am working on finding ways through my classroom to engage my students and try to build in them a desire to find their own solutions to the problems they see. And I am working on building a project of some sort where I teach students about community development, the importance of community, and the importance of engaging in their community. Just like in the States, young people are pretty discouraged and apathetic about their ability to change the community around them for the better. And a question I am always asking is why is that and how do we work to change that (here and in the States). 


If any of you have ideas, I would LOVE to hear them. Remember, if you have questions about Ukraine or my experience, or my thoughts on something...check out the Frequently Asked Questions section and you can submit your very own question for me!


До Свидания! До побачення! (Good bye in Russian and Ukrainian)


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Comments: 1
  • #1

    Samantha Ea (Wednesday, 06 December 2017 13:29)

    Love hearing about your experiences, Betsy. I know writing consistently on a blog can be difficult (I was never consistent!), so anything you write, even if it's just a paragraph or story of a day or experience is appreciated. Keep up the great work! :)

    And I know that feeling of being in a foreign country, and trying to be as present and accepting as possible, but knowing that you have your own thoughts and opinions of what/how certain things are done, can feel somewhat conflicting and powerless in your actions. I totally get you. It's a daily struggle, and I don't think I ever got over it (because how can you?), but taking each day at a time and finding power in the things you can control and what makes you happy. You probably already know all of this, but it never hurts to be reminded. <3

    As for ways to engage your students on how to build solutions from problems, I always brought up media and let the think what's wrong with media, social media, gender norms, stereotypes, etc. These subjects always interested my students, and they almost always have an opinion. Of course catering it to all the different age groups that you work with would be helpful too!

    You are amazing! Sending so much love to you!