Education student teaches refugees in Hungary

Tue, 2013-03-12 08:41 -- univcomm
Kristin Uhr
March 12, 2013

Secondary education major Kristin Uhr has had a long-standing desire to teach overseas. Recently this desire was fulfilled when she traveled to Hungary to teach refugees. Uhr is a member of the Anderson University Center for Public Service (CPS), through which she received funding for her trip.

According to Dr. Joel Shrock, director of CPS and an associate professor of history, CPS is an honors program dedicated to helping students develop their professionalism with a service mentality. Students who are sophomores or juniors with at least a 3.4 GPA may apply for the program.

Shrock said the program is typically very transformative for participants because they are “totally thrown out of their comfort zone.”

[Photo: Kristin Uhr presents her teaching practicum prior to her trip to Hungary.]

Uhr wanted to go into teaching because she could see the struggles many schools have when teaching youth, and she wanted to help make important changes in the schools to make them more successful. This vision for education is what drew her overseas.

Uhr was in Hungary for five and a half weeks and taught English to male refugee students. The youngest student was 20 years old, with many of the students being older than Uhr. The refugees were Afghan and Iranian. The culture of the school was different than schools in the U.S. “They have different philosophies of education,” said Uhr. The students have a high respect for teachers and prefer lectures over in-class participation.

Uhr’s favorite part of her experience was seeing the growth of the students. At her arrival to the camp, the men spoke almost no English. By the end of the summer, the men were having full conversations with her.

The most difficult part of Uhr’s time at the camp was seeing the pent-up anger, frustration, and desperation of her students. The refugees wait at the camp to get into the country and can be there for a number of years. Uhr says this waiting caused students to feel discouraged about their work. “Knowing you can’t do anything is frustrating,” said Uhr.

These frustrations were not enough to ruin her experience, though. It was Uhr’s first time teaching overseas, but it won’t be her last.

Jeffrey Trotter, instructor of education, has had Uhr in his education classes. He said he could see her teaching overseas as a profession one day because of her calm and reflective temperament. “It’s good for any of us to be uncomfortable,” said Trotter. “It’s discomfort that forces us to rethink what we know.” Trotter said students who travel overseas often find value in being there and are able to come back to the U.S. with different perspectives.

Uhr learned about different cultural aspects through her experience, and she now has a new perspective on life and education that she will carry into future classrooms.

— Anna Rayis is a junior from Columbus, Ohio, majoring in communication arts. Rayis is an associate with Fifth Street Communications®, writing on behalf of the Anderson University Office of University Communications.

Anderson University is a private Christian university of about 2,600 undergraduate and graduate students in central Indiana. Anderson University continues to be recognized as one of America's top colleges by U.S. News and World Report, The Princeton Review, and Forbes. Established in 1917 by the Church of God, Anderson University offers more than 65 undergraduate majors and graduate programs in business, music, nursing, and theology.