A key part of the Beyond the Château experience available to MUDEC students is Service Learning, which is a specific type of volunteering based on the idea that engagement in the community must be tied to a formal, in-class learning experience. This week, we talked to four students: Emma Baumgartner, Olivia Casey, Emma Cousino and Emily Smith, who all volunteered at Ecole international de Differdange et de Esch/Alzette, an international school located less than a five-minute walk from the Château. Olivia Casey was the sole volunteer for the Esch social pantry, located across the street from the Esch/Alzette Gare.
1. Why did you choose to volunteer at the international school?
Emma B: "I chose to volunteer at the international school because I absolutely adore kids. I babysit as my summer job, so I definitely know how crazy kids can be, but at the end of the day they’re so comedically honest and full of life, which is why I love to spend time with them."
Olivia: "I chose to volunteer at the international school because I wanted to go outside of my comfort zone, see how they teach abroad and meet new students! All the students were so outgoing! They love talking to me about all sorts of things and always participating in class discussions. It is like they are not afraid to say what is on their mind."
Emma C: "I chose to volunteer at the international school because I really want to work with children some day and I thought this would be a good opportunity to try and interact with kids when I knew it wouldn’t be easy with the language barrier."
2. Was there a goal for volunteering at the international school? Did you learn anything new?
Emma B: "Just out of curiosity, I was mainly looking to discover the differences between American children and European children, as well as between how American classrooms are run versus European ones - which was plausible since I was placed with the French classes. I always am eager to learn about new cultures, and this was a great opportunity to do so. One main difference I spotted: these European teachers had a balanced sense of discipline and intimacy with their students. They were able to efficiently reprimand their students when needed, yet they could just as easily flip the switch and be a caring, nurturing presence. One of the teachers would turn on music and pick up the kids and dance with them, which was so cute. They were definitely more touchy-feely with the kids."
Olivia: "I have learned many interesting things from Sarah and the students. First, all the students call the teacher by her first name, Sarah. This is odd to me but I am getting the hang of it. Another interesting insight I have made is all the different types of projects they do outside of curriculum based things. For example, they were rehearsing a play, creating masks for Carnival, and discussing what peace means to them. Everyday I was there I enjoyed every second. I wish I was in the class more often. Lastly, I love how they practice learning other languages at such a young age. Compared to the U.S., we start learning a new language in middle school or even high school."
3. What was your favorite part about volunteering with the international school and why?
Emma B: "Despite only visiting the school twice, I can surely say that my favorite part was interacting with the kids. Only a couple of them spoke English, so I had to find ways to communicate with them non-verbally. Kids are so creative and intelligent that it was no problem getting over this hump. I think my favorite instance was when I pointed at the plastic food in the toy kitchen and made eating motions with my hands, which led one of the girls to immediately jump into action and fix me a plate. She and her friends thought it was the most hilarious thing watching me pretend to eat the food."
Olivia: "My favorite thing has been meeting the students and building a relationship with my teacher Sarah. I am considering doing half of my student teaching in Luxembourg my senior year."
Emma C: "My favorite thing about volunteering at the international school was the day I played Uno with the kids. They were definitely cheating and didn’t always understand how Uno worked, but it was the first time they played a game with me without being scared of the girl who only spoke English and we had a ton of fun together! I’m really disappointed we had to leave so early because I would have loved to see how much they would have opened up to me by the end of the semester but I’m grateful for the time I had there!"
Emily: "My favorite part was definitely seeing the children move between the different languages they knew. The instructors there told me they had kids who knew French, Luxembourgish, English, and even Portuguese. The international school served to teach English to the non-English speakers and Luxembourgish to the others. I’ve always struggled to learn new languages so I was in awe of these children that knew multiple so fluently."
Even though students were only able to volunteer for a few weeks due to the pandemic, this service learning experience still clearly made an impact on these MUDEC students.