By Gelsey Plaza
The Keck Interactive Learning Center (ILC) in Miller is a hub for international language and cultural exchange. It offers students the resources to practice a language, study, use a computer or learn about a new culture. The languages offered in the ILC are Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Japanese, Russian and Spanish. Thus, there are seven language assistants from these countries. They help tutor students and as well as facilitate language club activities.
Some of the language assistants are here on a Fulbright scholarship, which is a cultural exchange program funded by the United States government. Russian language assistant Zemfira Gogueva is a Fulbright Language Teaching Assistant (FLTA). According to Gogueva, FLTA is a program for young English teachers who want to share their native language and culture with students in the US. Gogueva applied for this program in May 2017, and it was a long three-round selection process. It wasn’t until April 2018 when she had an idea of where she could teach. The Fulbright office sent a list of four universities and colleges, of which LC was her top choice.
“LC community is super alive and open,” Gogueva said over email “It is easier to get along with people here; they are open-minded, curious and smart. I am taking classes as a student too, so I have chance to see the process of education from different perspective. I love my classes; professors and students have a close and warm connection. We have more official relations with our teachers and professors back in Russia, so I enjoy this difference.”
German language assistant Ricah Kunde came to LC through the Year of Study Program in Munich, which has connections with different colleges, including LC and Reed. Kunde worked as a Language Assistant at another liberal arts college, Colby College in Maine where she realized how much she loved helping students broaden their horizons language-wise. After her year at Colby, she was so excited about teaching languages that she started her studies at Ludwig-Maximilians-University in Munich to become a teacher of English, Spanish and German as a Foreign Language.
“What I really love about being a language assistant, is that you’re connected to young people, that you live with them and engage as both a participant as well as an educator, and that you get paid and you don’t have to worry about accommodation and bureaucracy like the visa application and everything,” Kunde said. “And in addition to my tasks as language assistant, I’m also allowed to audit two classes, which is another advantage. Altogether, you become part of a huge network,” she said.
According to ILC Director Blair Orfall, the Language Assistants (LAs) have a lot of different roles at LC. They teach credit/no credit conversation classes, assist language faculty in classes and research, hold office hours, tutor students, run twice-weekly language tables in the Bon and Troom, and collaborate with club presidents and members to organize and put on events, such as Fiesta de Salsa, Japan Night, French Week, China Night, Oktoberfest, and the International Fair. The LAs live in Global Village, a Living Learning Community in Platt Hall, where they hold weekly office hours and participate in community events. Furthermore, they all audit classes, too.
“The LAs are crucial to the strength of (the World Languages and Literatures)department,” Orfall said over email. “They organize important co-curricular activities like language tables and cultural events that are vital to creating language communities on campus. I think one of the most valuable aspects of the Language Assistant program is that LC students have the opportunity to work closely and regularly with the LAs. The students who engage with club activities and spend time with the LAs are truly part of an international community. It’s also great for students who have studied overseas and want to keep that connection alive.”
Some of the faculty work very closely with the Language Assistants.
“The faculty greatly value their interactions with the LAs for many reasons, including the contemporary connection it provides them to the language and culture of their expertise,” Orfall said. “They meet with them frequently to discuss the classes that the LAs are assisting with and/or teaching. This is particularly relevant for the Chinese and Japanese sections where the LAs co-teach classes. Some faculty who are involved with the Student Language Clubs engage with the LAs frequently around planning and executing club events. Additionally, faculty can request that LAs assist them with research.”