Matthew's New Perspectives

My volunteer experience at Bigu was incredibly gratifying and proved to be a rewarding challenge in the best way. I would recommend this placement to volunteers looking to broaden their horizons or who want to be part of a culture different from their own. I took the two-day trip to get to the top of the hill where the nunnery is located, and settled in for the month of December, quickly adapting to the everyday routines and lifestyles at Bigu Gompa.

            For the first couple of days after I arrived, the nuns were taking exams and were too busy for English classes. During these days I had a lot of free time and I found that it was most rewarding to stay as busy as possible, offering myself for as many chores, daily activities, and acts of assistance I could provide. The quality of this kind of experience is really dependent on how much effort you put in to being as involved as possible, since the nuns are extremely self-sufficient.  If you want to make a difference and make your time worthwhile, it is important to take the initiative to be engaged and active. Personally, I had no WiFi or cellular service, so it became very easy to wake up early to help with cooking and daily chores like milking/feeding the cows and preparing for the classes I was to teach that day.

            Prior to arriving at Bigu, I had never taught English before, so it really became a sink or swim situation. Luckily I had prepared and made notes from the Supplemental Teaching Manual at the Volunteer House, using the subjects and detailed lesson plans to create my own classes. I was teaching three one-hour classes a day, generally six days a week. I split up all the material and each day personalized a lesson based on the specific class skill levels and their progress. I was very relieved at how eager and receptive the girls were to learning, especially when I made a point to really engage them in the lesson, either through games, participation activities, or doing smaller group-circle work. I can firmly say I never would have thought I could teach a single class, let alone three a day. Yet committing to this unfamiliar experience forced me to be open to things like going a month without using my phone, or learning I am capable of teaching and holding the attention of an entire class. I came out of this volunteer placement with new perspectives and special life experiences.