Lessons Learned

As week 2 of my internship comes to a close, I think it’s time for a little reflection on what I’ve experienced during my stay. With only two weeks left in The Gambia, I don’t think I’m ready to say goodbye to all the people and places that have changed my life. 

This past week my coping skills class worked on a few different things. Monday we focused on what attitude was, and why it was important to keep a positive attitude. I think this lesson is the most important one I have given, because having a positive attitude can really change your life. If you focus on all the good things that will come out of a situation rather than all the possible bad things that could go wrong, you’re much more likely to really experience life and be happy about it. I found that I also needed to learn this lesson. Even with all the opportunities I have in life, I often focus on the negative. It was an awesome experience to be able to grow alongside my students.

On Tuesday we did a 4 questions exercise, which basically helps you identify what your problem is and why it’s so important to you. It shows you why you care about whatever the situation is, and helps you take steps towards what you really want. The girls had a hard time understanding some of the questions, so it was a learning experience for me to try to break down the exercise into simpler terms. Teaching in general has helped me become more flexible. No matter what your lesson plan is, you’re probably going to have to change it mid lesson to fit for your students. This lesson was a clear example of having to think quickly and come up with different ways of teaching.

On Wednesday, we continued with the 4 Question exercise and also added on a deep breathing exercise. It was shocking to me that deep breathing was actually a valid and helpful coping skill. I had never used it before, and I think my students really enjoyed learning it. One of the funny things I’ve learned through my whole class is that as much as I thought I knew about coping skills, my students seem to be teaching me more than I am teaching them. They go through so many problems and stress, yet are positive and continue to be excited about learning and life everyday. They have given me inspiration to look at my life a different way.

Finally yesterday, we worked on setting goals. Yesterday was the last official class because today will be  presentations. I figured that a good final lesson for them to have was something they could use in their future. I had them each write a “life list”- a list of all the goals they wanted to accomplish, places they wanted to go, and things they wanted to do. Listening to their plans, I was inspired by how much they want to achieve. Not only for themselves, but also for the community and the world. Every girl put down that she wanted to give back to her community and help other girls that were struggling. They wanted to dedicate their lives to improving life for others, and I think that is the lesson I will take away most from this trip. No matter how much you have, material things or possessions, nothing will ever be as rewarding as passionately doing your best to serve others. I’ve experienced it in my two weeks of teaching, and how proud I am of how much my students have learned and how excited they are to learn more.

This internship has taught me just as much, if not exponentially more, than I will ever have time to teach the students. With my two weeks left, I hope to give as much as possible of myself, and experience more of how this beautiful culture and people live. 

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