Kathryn Chmielewski '15

snapshot  By Emma Christiantelli '15

 
“Having an internship abroad allows you to become entirely immersed
 in the culture of your host city. It exposes you to the language and
 customs and helps you to make lasting connections with the local
 people. It’s an incredible experience.”

 Kathryn Chmielewski, a current senior at Marist College, greatly
 values her abroad internship experience during the semester she
 spent in Rabat, Morocco, in Fall 2013. Chmielewski holds a double
 major in History and French and a double minor in Global Studies
 and Women’s Studies. Upon choosing her study abroad location,
 Chmielewski’s French major played an important role. While she
 knew that she wanted to spend her semester in a French-speaking
 country, she did not have a particularly keen interest in studying in
 France.  “I have always been fascinated by the French-speaking
 countries in Africa,” Chmielewski said. “Morocco seemed like a great country with a completely different
 culture in which I could totally immerse myself.”

 Once Chmielewski was officially accepted into the IES Study Abroad Program in Rabat, the capital of Morocco,
 she learned of the internship that she would hold while studying there. Chmielewski became an English teacher
 at a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) entitled Féminin Pluriel. Using her fluency in French, she taught the
 English language to native Moroccans of all ages. She is pictured with several of her students in the photo below.
 “I taught two-hour English classes three times a week at Féminin Pluriel,” Chmielewski explained. “I also created
 all of my own lesson plans and activities.” While interning with the NGO, Chmielewski also attended a
 supplementary course as a part of the internship experience. It aimed to provide the students with a better
 understanding of Moroccan NGOs and civil society.
 profile

 An internship of this nature certainly came with challenges that Chmielewski worked to overcome throughout
 her experience, in particular the limited resources at the NGO as well as fluctuating class sizes. “New students
 would join every time I went in to teach and other students would be absent often or completely stop attending.
 As a result, it was difficult to keep everyone on the same level,” she said.  It was not uncommon for Chmielewski’s
 classroom to contain thirty or forty students of many ages whose English abilities landed everywhere on the
 spectrum—beginners, intermediates, and experts. Keeping each of her students involved but not overwhelmed
 was Chmielewski’s primary challenge.

 Over time, Chmielewski’s Moroccan students became her friends. She cherishes the relationships they built
 together. “The connection with my students was by far the most rewarding part of my internship at the NGO,”
 she explained. “Most of my students were adult women. They taught me about their culture while I taught them
 about mine—it was such a valuable exchange.” In addition, Chmielewski’s students helped her to adjust to
 Moroccan life. They kindly showed her around the city and even invited her into their homes. Above all, they
 made her feel welcome. With the help from her students, Morocco became a home away from home for
 Chmielewski.

 Working as an English teacher opened Chmielewski's eyes to a brand new potential career path: after
 graduating this May, she eagerly hopes to work full-time for an NGO, either abroad or in the United States.
 Chmielewski’s internship taught her to be adaptive and open-minded while also presenting her with the
 chance to develop lasting bonds with her students. “My internship in Morocco solidified my passion for
 working with and helping people,” Chmielewski said. “The main priority for my future is simply to have a
 positive impact on people in any way that I can.”

 

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