Stay in Touch - Jessica


On our final day of Orientation nearly two months ago, our intern group trekked through the desert of Wadi Qelt. As we traipsed along the barren land, I found myself wondering the same question about that hike as I did about the internship: am I capable of successfully completing this adventure? The children at TYO deserve to receive so much empathy, and I was ecstatic to be part of such a meaningful cause. At that point, I had witnessed adorable interactions between Core teachers and their students, participated in the daily TYO song and dance and begun to design my own projects for the upcoming summer camp classes. As time elapsed during our hike, there were phases of dry heat and breaks in the shade for some quick refreshments. Similarly, the internship experience was a busy one, but as I look back on the great and small moments, I would never imagine changing a single moment.

Jessica and some of her students from the Green class smile after completing their final art project!
Jessica and some of her students from the Green class smile after completing their final art project!

Perhaps the most important aspect of the experiences I’m taking from the TYO internship is how learning and teaching is a two-way street. Sitting on the floor of my art classroom at the TYO center, my students taught me more about Palestinian culture than I could have by just travelling on my own. Between class discussions about community, health and critical thinking were the smaller details of the kids’ lives. Each time a student whispered that he and his mother had baked a cake together or a female student announced that her brother taught her how to play soccer was like opening a window into that child’s mind. It was an honor to hear every detail of the students’ lives as they painted both the literal pictures of our class activity and metaphorically of their daily lives. Greater still were the moments that the difference my fellow interns and I were making, became obvious. Shy students wrote our names in Arabic in paper hearts, begged to play “Rosy” (Ring Around the Rosy) in the pool and listened attentively as we explained our American customs.

Similarly, my English classes in Salfeet and at An-Najah University taught me as much as I taught the students there. While I taught vocabulary, grammar and syntax, my students taught me Palestinian history, different ideologies and Arabic slang. Just like our hike through Wadi Qelt, at the end of this internship I have not just merely finished but am walking away with the memory of something amazing. The students of various age groups, the projects we’ve completed and the lessons we’ve taught each other are forever in my mind. The exchanging of our cultures was subtle but enlightened both me and my students. Ultimately, the world is a little smaller as we are more connected through experience and similarities. Our students’ futures are bright and I cannot wait to hear of their future accomplishments.