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Monday, May 21, 2012

A Whirlwind Tour of World Languages Day

The West Bank was a scene of bustling activity on May 15th this year. Volunteers arrived early (early by the "real world" definition as well as the college one) to set up for the 1100 high school students who would soon be arriving for World Languages Day. I passed them several times greeting the students with schedules, maps, breakfast, and a smile. While weaving in and out of the groups of students in line for their croissants and coffee, I was pleasantly surprised by their energy and that of the volunteers patiently directing them.

For many students, World Languages Day is probably just another field trip. I was hoping that for some, it would be a time for a "light bulb" moment and give them a minute's inspiration to continue their language learning. But there was not much time to muse about this, as I got a call that more buses were arriving and creatively deciding on new drop locations.

Soon, it was time for welcoming remarks by Yer Her, a student ambassador, and Evelyn Davidheiser, director of the Institute for Global Studies and then off to classes for the first group of students. While in previous years of World Languages Day, I had the opportunity to sit in and do small tasks in the actual classes, this year of World Languages Day was my chance to see the workings outside of the classes that make them possible. It was passing smiling Stephanie Treat, the World Languages Day coordinator umpteen times in the halls as she was on her way to a new mission and waving to instructors I know. It was greeting my co-workers from the Language Center and volunteers, as they busily guided students, moved materials, solved technical difficulties in the classrooms, and kept some of the more spirited high schoolers in check. Months of planning made for a smooth World Languages Day, with over 50 classes in a variety of languages and cultures. But every year, as World Languages Day staff can tell you, comes with its individual challenges and successes.

Between waving my arms in the parking lot to direct traffic, checking in with everyone, and navigating students, I did have a few moments to peak into some classes. Then, riiinnngg, the pizza arrived! Lunch was one of the highlights of my World Languages Day, as I had the chance to thank instructors and volunteers, and chat with them to see how their various tasks and classes went. While walking between buildings during the clean-up phase, the high school students, their teachers, and chaperones were enjoying the beautiful sunshine and lunch. After picking up and of course flipping through some of the surveys, I saw a few typical teenage responses, a blank form with checks by appropriate boxes. However, a spin on this typical response caught me by surprise in my search for comments. One student had made a box next to the "very good", checked it, and wrote "amazing" underneath. Yes, despite all the running, all the planning, the unexpected downfalls and triumphs that come with any event, I think we can call World Languages Day 2012 a great day. Thank you to all of the staff and volunteers that made WLD not just possible, but fantastic!

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