The opportunity of a lifetime came to Nikki Elliott, a senior studying communication, through the International Language Programs, which opened up the doors for her to see the world and change lives.
ILP is a nonprofit organization that arranges for young adults to have a life-changing semester abroad volunteering around the world, according to the ILP webpage.
Nikki Elliott, went to the Dominican Republic in 2016 as a teacher for ILP. Elliott said one of the main reasons she decided to volunteer with ILP was because she wanted to travel.
Volunteermatch.org described ILP’s mission in the following ways: “1. Help children receive the best language education possible 2. Bless the lives of the families and communities of the children through cultural exchange 3. Provide an opportunity for teachers to have a great international experience while contributing to the local community.”
The ILP programs usually last for three to four months, according to the webpage.
“One of their big selling points is the fact that there are so many cool opportunities for travel. We did several trips throughout the semester,” Elliott said. “We stayed in tree-houses for four days, got to go zip-lining and hiked to a waterfall and jumped off of it. That was the best four days of my life.”
Students travel all across the world and participate in ILP to help children learn English in ten foreign countries: China, Thailand, Russia, Ukraine, Lithuania, Mexico, Poland, Romania, Dominican Republic, or Haiti, according to the ILP website. The program is designed to teach English to the children using various learning activities and games.
“Through the activities, there are certain ways you pull out the language,” Elliott said. “Because they’re so young, they pick it up really easily. If you just talk to them in English and repeat yourself through these activities, they pick it up really fast. It’s incredible.”
The program is set up to have opening exercises at the beginning of class, and then the students are broken into groups and rotated throughout the day to each of the different teachers assigned to each school.
Elliott said an experience with a difficult student showed her the benefits of teaching English to children, as the student would try to run away from Elliott and the other teachers and would disrupt the class in various ways.
“One day he was running around as usual and trying to escape, so I held him the whole opening, and it was a 180 degree turn,” Elliott said. “When I gave him the individual attention, he participated and he was excited to learn. After that one day, he turned into my favorite student. He was still difficult in classes, but since I figured out he responded well to individual attention, I could be more patient with him and help him learn better. I do think that I helped get him started on a path of knowing how to behave in school.”
Elliott said that learning English opens up doors for these children to have better lives in the future. She is volunteering again with ILP this August as a head teacher for the program to lead and direct other teachers in a specific region. She will find out where she is going later this semester.
Another student had a experience during her trip with ILP. Kenon Lysenko, a sophomore studying business management, went to Lithuania as a teacher for ILP.
According to ILP’s website, some students have the opportunity to live with a host family, or a family native to that country that allow the student to live with them. Lysenko said that in order for a family to be considered as a host family, they must have a child in the program.
Lysenko stayed with a host family while she lived in Lithuania.
“It was a very nice experience for (their son,) Nojus,”Jurate Staneviciute said, Lysenko’s host mom in Lithuania. “I think the last week, he started to speak English. He really had fun.”
Lysenko said she was able to help her eight-year-old host brother, Nojus Vilkevicius, learn English during the four months she was there.
Andrius Vilkevicius, Lysenko’s host dad, said “She is wonderful. We really wanted her to stay with us.” Living with Lysenko influenced the Vilkevicius’ lives.
The Vilkevicius’ said they had fun learning American traditions and teaching Lysenko some Lithuanian traditions of their own.
“It was a very nice experience for Nojus,” Staneviciute said. “He was very happy having a big sister staying with him. He misses her a lot. She was such a bright person, you know, and it was really a wonderful experience for us. We really enjoyed it.”
Lysenko said she hoped she made a difference in their lives. She still stays in contact with her host family from Lithuania through video calls and texting.
Staneviciute said that Lysenko needs to come back to live with them again because it is where she belongs.
College students who consider volunteering with ILP can make a difference in the lives of those involved in the program. Students may visit www.ilp.org if they are interested in learning more about the program.