Below is a journal entry that I read for my Internship credit that I earned during my time at the International Rescue Committee. I got an A.
There are many cultures and communities represented on any given week at the IRC ESL classes. Of them, one of my favorite to interact with is the Iraqis. There has been an influx of Kurdish refugees, and we've had a consistent group on Wednesdays attending ESL classes. It's a fairly large group of individuals; they always sit together a the back table and converse over the instructions of the activities in a mixture of Kurdish and Arabic. The clearcut leader of the group is an older gentleman named Hamid. Hamid is a lively, middle-aged man that arrived here in the United States with his family only a few months ago. He's a lot of fun, and excuses my poor attempt at recalling my Arabic, appreciative of me trying. But, Hamid is by far one of the friendliest individuals that we have in class. Many of these students have some horrifying stories. The Kurds have been aggressively oppressed in Iraq for a long time, highlighted by Sadaam Hussein's atrocities against the Kurdish people during his reign. Of the stories that I have heard regarding the persecution of entire people groups, the Kurds have faced some of the worst. But, Hamid and his crew stand out quickly by their interaction with each other and with other students. They are jovial there in the back of the classroom, laughing at each other's pronunciations, telling jokes, and actively engaging with students from other cultures. This is a rarity, as the students tend to keep to their own ethnic groups. However, the Kurds are quick to branch out to the students around them. It's a fresh and contagious approach that lightens the invisible tension that exists in the classroom. I've been largely impressed by their eagerness to interact with other students. This tendency makes my job as the instructor much easier, as the general discomfort of being surrounded by strangers that you have nothing in common with. It's fun to see some of these walls come down, though. Because, in reality, these students have so much in common with one another. They've all come from similar backgrounds, they're all in entirely new situations, and they're all fighting to learn a language that sucks to learn. So, once they begin interacting with one another, they see their similarities and end up enjoying class more. Hamid and the Kurds continually impress me with the way that their joyful interaction affects the dynamics of the classroom.