My name is Hillary McLauchlin, and I’m a Sophomore from Tampa, FL who’s interested in studying Social Studies or East Asian Studies. I’m currently living in Pforzheimer! This past year I’ve had the incredible opportunity of volunteering for the Harvard Chinatown ESL program and found it to be one of the highlights of my Harvard experience so far!
Each weekend, I volunteer teaching an advanced English class to Chinese immigrants who live in Chinatown and the greater Boston area. As the highest level of English offered, my class is composed of students (ranging from graduate students to those in their seventies and eighties) who have a firm grasp of English but still lack confidence with their speaking and listening skills. Whether we are acting out scenarios to practice speaking, reviewing tricky English idioms, or having small group discussions about American society, class is never boring!
As someone who is currently studying Mandarin, I can relate to my students’ struggles with a different language and, through teaching, believe that I have become a better student. Several weeks I have covered the same topic in my ESL lesson that I had been learning in class! I was able to apply what I had been taught in my class at Harvard and learned more about Chinese culture by speaking with my ESL students in the process. While still taking place on Harvard’s campus, Chinatown ESL provides an opportunity to leave the Harvard bubble and get to know members of the Boston community. The Chinatown ESL Directors do a great job of helping us to be aware of the difficulties that the Chinatown community faces.
In addition to helping improve students’ English so that they can prepare to take their citizenship test and feel more comfortable in their daily interactions, Chinatown ESL provides an outlet for English learners to share resources and get to know one another. Some of my students, particularly those who are more elderly, have attended classes for years and forged friendships in the process. Weekly classes provide a change of scenery from their day to day lives and an opportunity to catch up with friends.
I am so thankful to have had the opportunity to participate in this program—one that’s allowed me to combine my interests in teaching, language, and service. There’s nothing quite like seeing a classroom full of excited faces and participating in such a unique form of cultural exchange right here on campus.