The 2014 Service Learning Program organized by American Councils for the NSLI-Y Russian Language 2014-15 academic year students took place from November 28 to December 3, 2014. The service learning program included a variety of volunteer activities in Comra, the capital of Gagauzia, an autonomous region in the south of Moldova. In this region, the most commonly spoken language is Russian and it is used in all of the educational, public, and private institutions. The students visited the the city’s educational institutions and diverse populations to learn about local life and to share about the United States, a particularly meaningful experience as not many Americans visit this city in south Moldova. One of the highlights of the program were activities at Comrat State University, where a roundtable discussion was held with local college students on the subject of student life and the status of the Russian language as a leading global language.
[Click here to see the event highlighted on the website for the Russkiy Mir Foundation, a government funded organization aimed at “promoting the Russian language as Russia’s national heritage and a significant aspect of Russian and the world culture, and supporting Russian language teaching programs abroad.”]
Another service learning activity involved Comrat’s younger residents during an arts and crafts afternoon at the local preschool. NSLI-Y students taught young preschoolers how to paint Thanksgiving scenes and turkeys while sharing information about the American holiday and its traditions. For beginner Russian NSLI-Y students, this activity gave them the chance to practice asking simple questions and giving answers in Russian with the small children. Advanced participants described Thanksgiving in further detail and sparked an interest in the older children and staff members.
The students also visited High School Number 5 to meet their Gagauz peers and develop team presentations on the topic of “My Ideal School.” They answered questions such as: What would your school be called? What subjects would be offered? What unique features would the school have?
Another important volunteer activity took place at “Fidanjik,” a daytime rehabilitation center for children with disabilities related to the central nervous system. NSLI-Y students designed an activity supporting the center’s goal of integrating students into the community. Participants drew pictures with the students of the center depicting things that they liked and were important to them.
The NSLI-Y group had an incredibly productive week, engaging with the local community, giving back by volunteering their time, and most importantly – acting as cultural bridges between the U.S. and Moldova’s younger population.