April already? Can't believe my semester at S.O.A.R is coming to a close, not to mention my college career. As I inch closer to donning my cap and gown, I am growing sentimental about all the great times and wonderful learning experiences I have had as an undergraduate at the University of Illinois. That being said, I am so glad to have participated in the S.O.A.R. program during my time here. Although S.O.A.R. is currently fulfilling my volunteer requirement for the Spanish in the Community coursework, it is actually my fifth semester with the program. I have had the privilege of seeing some students blossom from tiny, curious kindergarteners into responsible and intelligent older students.
I am proud to have lent my service to the community these past few years. What I have found, though, is that S.O.A.R. has been mutually beneficial. The most obvious perk of the program for me (and one of my main reasons for participating in the first place) is the opportunity to practice my Spanish with native speakers. I truly feel that through tutoring, my fluency and understanding of the language have increased significantly. These kids are the perfect conversation partners -- chatty, knowledgeable, and not afraid to correct me if I make an error!
Besides language skills, S.O.A.R. has really given me the chance to develop my leadership skills and become a role model. With practice, enthusiasm, and a lot of patience, I learned now to make a first-grader respect me and still think I'm the coolest thing since sliced bread. Tutoring at BTW has heped me relate to people who come from completely different backgrounds and lifestyles. I am more aware of happenings in my community thanks to S.O.A.R. The "bubble" of campus life no longer holds me captive, and I have a greater interest in what is happening beyond the quad, beyond the state, and beyond the US. I am grateful for this experience, especially knowing that I will use all of these skills in my work next year teaching English in Galicia, Spain. What I have gained from my service in the community is truly immeasurable. I feel prepared and confident for whatever next year has in store for me, and I hope that other students take advantage of the chance to make a difference and develop personally by becoming a tutor with S.O.A.R. Hasta luego, Illinois!