I have been volunteering as a tutor for Paper Airplanes for a year. I heard about the programme through a mutual friend on Facebook and felt that it aligned with my interests, as I was going to be pursuing a new career as an English Language Teacher. I am grateful for the regular contact it has given me with students who have experienced the harsh realities of the current refugee crisis and it provided an opportunity to make a real difference. I currently work as a TEFL teacher in Seville, Spain and while teaching English is what I do every day, the satisfaction I get volunteering as a tutor for Paper Airplanes has added so much more to my teaching experience; the gratitude and resourcefulness of students are inspiring and makes me want to be the best teacher I can be.
Lina was my first student; working with her was my first experience with Paper Airplanes and online teaching. She was extremely dedicated to our sessions and the work we did together. She passed the advanced course in the summer and therefore no longer needed me to help her with her English as a tutor, but we still promised to stay in touch. Then I received a message from her in the autumn term asking me to help her prepare for a job interview with an English speaking company. We spent a few evenings going through typical job interview questions, and the practice paid off! She got a job soon after as a Product Verification Engineer at ProGineer Technologies. I am incredibly proud of Lina for dedicating herself to learning English and bettering her future.
I was then paired with Raghad, a French literature student from Syria living in Istanbul. Since September, we have been meeting for about an hour and a half every week to work on the Paper Airplanes curriculum. We talk about many different things during our sessions, from family to food, and we have grown close. I was excited to work with Raghad, especially because I knew I was going to be visiting Istanbul for Christmas with my mother and wanted to see if it would be possible to meet up in person. As the semester continued and we got closer to my trip, though, I was unsure if we were going to be able to meet, as Raghad had an exam during this time. Ultimately we did organize a time to meet up and spent an afternoon together, walking around the Taksim district of the city, drinking coffee, and eating Syrian food, one of my favorite cuisines.
This was a lovely encounter that brought to light the reality of our work. Although I am Raghad’s teacher, Raghad was our guide in Turkey. She was showing us her favorite places, ordering food and speaking to everyone as I have no knowledge of Turkish. We spoke about her family, life in Syria, what she wants to do when she graduates, and we found that in addition to having a great relationship as student and teacher, we had become friends. I am excited to keep working with Raghad this semester as we now have a deeper connection and know more about each other's lives. Through my experience as a tutor, I’ve seen that Paper Airplanes does so much more than just teach languages; its mission is to share, grow, and connect with people.