One of the most amazing educational experiences I have ever had occurred about a year and a half now, and half the world away. During the summer of 2010, I traveled almost halfway across the world to Daugavpils, Latvia to teach at an English development camp for a month. And let me tell you, it was AMAZING! First, before I get started with the adventure, let me tell you about how I actually got to go on the trip. (This is going to be a multi-post story because so much happened).
I was sitting in my dorm room the night before my first SOUL trip watching the Winter Olympics. This would have been early February 2010 and I was headed off to West Virginia in the morning. I get a call from my mom who had been at the 25th wedding anniversary to one of my best friend’s parents that night. She tells me that she ran into a family friend Kathy Murphy and they started talking about Latvia. Now even though Kathy was a family friend, I think I had only met her a handful of times and all of these were probably before I was in second grade. Also, Kathy is the camp director in Latvia, so she goes every year, and has been for thirteen years as of the summer of 2011. So my mom and Kathy talk about the camp, and Kathy brought up the notion that I should go with her to the camp that summer because I would be perfect. They ended up talking a little more and my mom got some of the details about the camp. So, when my mom called and talked to me she told me what Kathy had said, and I think the first thing I said in response was, “Where is Latvia?” I had an idea, but I was not sure. Google here we come! I saw that Latvia is on the Baltic Sea, one of the three Baltic States with Lithuania and Estonia, and right next to Russia as well. I also learned that Latvia had finally gained independence from Russia in 1991 which is very recently in the scheme of things. So I keep talking with my mom, and everything she was saying sounded really interesting, new, and exciting. The whole time I was thinking of the amazing experience I was sure I would have, but I was not sure if I could be away from my family for a month or if I would actually be able to be responsible for my own classroom without any formal guidance. I finally asked my mom what she thought about the idea. She simple said that if she didn’t think it was a good idea and that I should not do it, she would not have even brought it up. That was enough for me! I told her that I would do it, and that was that! I applied, met with our group, and let the adventure begin!
The camp is through WIESCO (Wisconsin International Educational Scientific Cultural Organization) and the organization does camps in Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Poland, and Brazil. I also just saw that in 2012 they are going to add another camp in Sweden. It is wonderful knowing how much these camps are expanding. The Latvian camp runs for three weeks starting at the end of June and continuing on until mid July. I was not sure if I wanted to take this big of a chunk out of my summer vacation, and knew I would not be able to really get a job over the summer because I would be missing over a month. But, I decided that this was a trip of a lifetime, and I may never get this opportunity again, so I signed up!
“Do one thing every day that scared you.”