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New Concordia Language Village program brings students to Tanzania

The Grumeti Reserves in Tanzinia, where the program with take place. Photo Courtesy of Singita Grumeti Fund.

For years, the Concordia Language Villages have been bringing a cultural immersion experience to students in both the Fargo-Moorhead area and across the world. This summer, five Concordia students will be traveling to Tanzania to bring a similar experience to students living on a reserve in Singita National Park through an English learning day camp.

The pilot program was designed by both Concordia Global Learning and the Singita-Grumeti Fund to promote English learning in the area. Although the program is only just beginning, it will hopefully be successful and the relationship between Concordia and the Singita-Grumeti fund can continue.

“It’s a really great example of the risk taking we do with our study away and global learning programs,” said Associate Dean of Global Learning Per Anderson. “This is a truly a learn-as-you-go program. Our students are going to be at the frontlines of some real world issues. We couldn’t be more excited for the opportunity.”

Children in Tanzania are taught mostly in Swahili in primary school, except for a 40 minute English class each day, but then their secondary school is taught completely in English.

“This jump from primary to secondary school can be extremely challenging for some students,” Anderson said. “And the Singita-Grumeti Fund has noticed this and created this program to address these challenges.”

The Concordia Language Villages history of success created an opportunity for a relationship between CLV, Concordia Global Learning, and the Singita-Grumeti fund.

“We’re hoping to go over to Tanzania and help bridge that education gap for the students, said Senior Elementary Education major Molly Aga. “We’re not trying to teach them American culture. We want them to teach us their culture, and we have skills to help them grow in their own educational setting.”

Although the month long summer program will be based on methods used in Concordia’s own language villages, the focus will not be on cultural immersion.

“We will be teaching English that will be helpful for them in their own country, which will be a lot different than what would be helpful in our culture,” Gulsvig said.

The Tanzanian students who will be participating in the program will be around 11-13 years old, and the group of Cobber’s couldn’t be more excited to get started.

“I love kids,” Aga said. “I’m so excited to be with them and learn with them. I’ll be teaching them English, but they will teach me so much more. It’s going to be an amazing experience.”

This year, the group of Cobbers was selected by invite only, and if the program is continued next year, it will most likely stay extremely selective.

“The expectations for this group are very high,” Gulsvig said. “We need students to have a certain expertise and background. All of the students either have prior CLV experience or teaching experience.”

Even though the trip is a new experience for many of the students, the experience alone will be a once in a lifetime possibility.

“Being one of the first teachers to teach at this camp is scary, but these students absolutely deserve it,” said Junior Elementary Education Major Megan Sangren. “I’m excited to watch my students grow in their confidence with English and to support my students as they continue their language learning journeys.”

This summer, the five Concordia students going on the trip will spend a weekend at one of the Concordia Language Villages in order to learn more about the culture and the native language. They will be prepared, but naturally, are also a little nervous.

“I have done my research, but I only know about what I read,” said Junior Political Science and Environmental Policy Major Lacy Tooker-Kirkevold. “I don’t know these kids life stories or their backgrounds, I want to be able to teach them as much as I can but I have to be able to meet them halfway and get a sense of who they are and what they want to get out of this experience to be able to make it as effective and fun as possible.”

The focus of this trip is to teach the students English, but the value of the experience will go much farther than that.

“Many times we look at our global neighbors and immediately think of all the differences between us,” Sangren said. “I know I’m going to learn a lot about the differences between our cultures and I’m so interested in that, but I think I’m going to be surprised by some of the similarities I notice. I also hope to learn how to be a better teacher and more compassionate person.”

The five Cobbers: Maddie Malat, Lacy Tooker-Kirkevold, Erin Ann Schueler, Megan Sangren, and Molly Aga, will be in Tanzania from June 1 to July 3.

“It honestly still hasn’t clicked that I’m going to be spending part of my summer in Tanzania, but I am beyond excited,” Sangren said. “We have a phenomenal team and I cannot wait to grow and learn from each of them.”

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