Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Student Reflection

by Erik Bingham

Getting Better All the Time

I have now worked more than half of my required 28 hours of service at ECIRMAC. Although 28 hours really isn’t that much time, I have already gained practical experience through my knowledge of the Spanish language. I still struggle all the time with understanding what is being said, what is being asked, and how to respond. But I have good news- it’s getting better all the time.

We spent a week in class doing the exact same things that I do in my work- taking messages. Our teacher would read us a list of names and addresses that we had to write down. I am glad we got to do these exercises because it is something that I still struggle with. Our teacher also read us short messages that included all the information that we needed to write down including names, dates, places, numbers, and addresses. This activity was more difficult than what I have to do in the office because there was no opportunity to ask questions.

In addition to this practice, we learned how to ask the right questions when we don’t understand something. This seems like common sense, but it can be quite overwhelming when someone is saying something to you that you don’t understand in a different language. For the past couple weeks whenever someone is speaking to me on the telephone and I did not understand something I would just ask them “what?” or say “repeat that again.” After a while the other person would just hang up and I would feel bad that I couldn’t do anything to help them. Our professor taught us how to ask questions more efficiently. For example, if someone tells me a telephone number and I only understood the first three numbers then instead of asking them to repeat the whole thing, I would say the numbers I understood and then ask them to repeat the rest. While I haven’t had any major problems since this lesson, I know that I am going to use this strategy the next time I run into problems.

Every now and then I get to do something besides take messages. One of my favorite things to do at ECIRMAC is to work with people directly. When there is nobody in the office or everyone else is busy with other work, I get the opportunity to interact with our clients. Most of the time I have no idea what I am doing but luckily there is someone to guide me along. For the most part it is my responsibility to figure out what the client needs and then help him or her. From my experience so far I have helped clients fill out tax forms, food stamp request, and other things like that. Before working at ECIRMAC I had little to no knowledge of how to fill out these forms. While they are pretty easy to figure out, it is still difficult because I have never filled them out before, they are usually in Spanish, and I do not want to make the slightest mistake. Every time I help one of our clients I get better and better at my job.

This week is my last week of paid work (at another job). With this in mind, I am thinking about picking up some additional hours per week on days where I would’ve normally had work. Its not that I want to say that I volunteered 45 hours instead of 28 this semester, it’s because I want the experience. With more hours of practice comes more experience. Every time I get to do something at ECIRMAC I not only help the community but I also help myself get better at these practical skills that would be expected of me in the future if I want to put that I am fluent in Spanish on my resume.

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