April 12, 2017

An Unexpected Inspiration

We have all done things we wanted to do, but that put us outside our comfort zone. Often these experiences change us in ways we could not have imagined. I had such an experience this past summer when I attended a language camp. I knew no one and had no understanding of the language I was set to learn.

I was approaching my senior year and was sorely lacking in language credits. I had taken French my Freshman year and began a class my Junior year, but I could not seem to wrap my mind and tongue around the language.  It is not that I didn’t care about learning a language. I wanted to learn a language and needed to for my chosen career path. So I did something drastic. I found the most opposite yet interesting language I could think of and signed up for a four-week, no-outside-world language immersion camp in Minnesota. The language I chose was Russian.

At camp, I was assigned to a cabin with nine other girls I had never met before. Not knowing what to expect, I began to get to know them. Seven of the nine girls whom I lived with were adopted at a young age from Russia and were at camp to regain a language they had lost. My family experience was dramatically different from my new friends. I have always had a family and a home in which to live. One girl in my cabin watched her mother hang herself at age five and was put in an orphanage along with her brother when their father was jailed. She did not remember much about her life at the orphanage except that when she didn’t obey, her head was held under water. As I came to know these girls and their experiences, I realized I needed to do something.

I returned home after those four weeks with different plans and perspectives. After becoming familiar with the people behind the stories, I decided that if I could help even one child through a similar experience, I would. I have decided that when I am ready to take care of a child of my own, I will be adopting, preferably from Russia, but until then there is still much I can do. I enjoy studying Russian, so when I returned I enrolled in a dual credit Russian class at the University of Texas at Arlington. By fate or coincidence, my Russian teacher had co-founded an organization called Allies in Youth Development years ago. Allies’ goal is to help and encourage orphans in Russia by sending supplies and by fostering a relationship between the orphans and college students local to the region. I have attended fundraisers, am planning one of my own, sponsored a child, and am trying to work out a way to visit Russia and the orphanages with Allies.

I knew, going to camp, that I would learn a language, but I never expected it to change my life. And without a doubt, that is what it did. My life plans have changed in an astonishing way. I am not just taking a language class; I am helping to change lives.