It’s all relative

I’ve been struggling with this blog, as is to be expected for me. I really do have a hard time writing for other people but I’m gonna give it a go.

For this trip, I’ve been having somewhat of a hard time. It has nothing to do with the people here, or Sarajevo itself, or even the whole internship itself. It’s been a result of one part of my internship: teaching English. In the past few months, as I’ve been struggling through the task of job hunting and sorting through every possibility out there, I’ve been faced with many opportunities to teach English in various countries across the globe. I had never really had a strong opinion of teaching English until these opportunities presented themselves. Once I thought about it, I came to the realization that I had an issue with going to these countries and teaching English; it has a feel of proselytizing and doing missionary work — forcing something onto these people that they aren’t really interested in but will do just to humor the outsiders. I haven’t wanted to really voice these thoughts. Coming here and realizing that was going to be the bulk of my internship, I’ve been struggling through everything.

However, today, with perfect timing that seems to only be possible in Bosnia (i.e. the perfect timing of everything on our rafting trip in Konjic), I was given a new perspective of the whole thing today that actually made me think and reevaluate the whole thing. I had heard before that people in Bosnia learning English is beneficially because it really makes them more employable, more outside opportunities, etc. I hadn’t really been convinced and bought into these answers and I still think that kind of oversimplifies it. But, today, I was talking to Maja, the supervisor from Wings of Hope. We’ve been struggling with the English classes for the teenagers at the center, mostly because, well, they’re teenagers. They’re not fully invested in being there and don’t have much desire to be in school when it’s summer. During our break with these kids today, Maja started to tell me the histories of these teenagers and giving me an opportunity to view everything from their perspective. Knowing what they’ve grown up with and being able to see just how intelligent they really are, despite their typical teenage behavior, helped me realize that while teaching English might be our actual activity, we have the opportunity to show these teenagers what life can be like and that they can be hopeful and stop seeing the future as full of crime and jail time. We can use this opportunity to influence them and hopefully play a small part in changing the direction of their lives down a more positive path. Now, even though they can be extremely frustrating and difficult, I actually find myself wanting to get to know them better and get to understand their lives.

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