Quite often, a personal experience in one’s life can help her to discover what he or she should do in the future. For me, it took a trip 3,648 miles away to a small village in Peru. This trip helped to redefine my ideas about students and education, and helped me discover what I truly want to do in life.
The summer before my senior year in high school, I was chosen to participate in a mission trip to Chaclacayo, Peru, a town just outside of Lima. Here, I volunteered at Hogar de San Francisco Asis, a children’s home that provides shelter and healthcare to children, who are either orphaned by their parents, or brought to the home to receive medical treatment that the family cannot afford. During my stay there, I assisted babies, children, and young adults who had physical disabilities with their daily routines and work, and I also became their new friend. This experience impacted my life and taught me more about myself than I ever knew; how accepting and selfless I can be, even in the most foreign places.
Going into this mission trip, I was never really certain as to what I wanted to study in college, or what career I wanted to pursue after I graduated. I had always leaned toward the idea of studying English, but knew how broad a topic that actually was. So, I started thinking about teaching English, as I had always loved my high school English courses and teachers. It was not until one night at “The Hogar,” that I truly figured out what path I wanted to go down in life.
A couple nights a week, the older children in the home went to the courtyard for English instruction. When I first arrived at the home, I was actually surprised to see how many of the kids spoke English, and how well they did. I was actually pretty embarrassed, too, since I had been learning Spanish for longer than most of these children were alive and I could not utter a complete, grammatically correct sentence in their first language. However, it became clear to me why this was the case soon after observing a few of the classes; the children were actually excited to be learning English, an attitude I never before applied to my Spanish studies.
One evening after one of the classes, I was having a conversation with one of the semi-permanent volunteers, who had been there already three months prior to my arrival. Usually, our conversations dealt with college, because I was just about to begin the application process, and he was finishing up his senior year of studies. This night in particular, he had asked me what exactly I wanted to study, and my response was the usual, “I have no clue.” However, after explaining how I wanted to be an English teacher, and him knowing that I loved travelling, he asked me the shortest, and the most significant question: “Why not teach ESL?” I do not know why I never thought about this, but after he asked me, I could not stop thinking about it. It was the most obvious answer to what I wanted to do in the future.
This life event is what has influenced me to begin my studies in the field of English as a Second Language (ESL). After applying to more colleges and universities than I am proud to admit, I discovered Niagara University through my employer—an alumnus—and found that NU offered TESOL, or Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages, the exact major I was looking for. I toured the beautiful campus March of my senior year, and eagerly left my deposit right after my tour was completed.
At first, I chose ESL solely for the opportunity to travel the world and make a living teaching at the same time, encouraged by the excitement of those young Peruvian students. Upon completing my first year here at Niagara, I came to realize that the need for ESL teachers is not just an international need, but one that is in our own backyards, in our own state and country. I am excited to see where my studies will take me in the future, and I will never forget the trip that guided me to where I am today.