When I set foot on Healy Lawn at the first CAB Fair, I almost passed out. It wasn’t just because there was free pizza AND free cupcakes at my disposal. It was primarily because the options of clubs to join were completely overwhelming. I wanted to try everything, but had received fair warning: “find something you’re invested in and stick with it.” The application and rejection process that I went through in the preceding weeks was nothing extraordinary. If someone on your floor wasn’t in total despair after being rejected from Blue and Gray, there’s a chance you slept through freshman year. My first acceptance was into the DC Schools Project, a program through the Center for Social Justice that offers free English Language Learning (ELL) tutoring to immigrant communities in Washington, DC. I joined the off-campus adult program and was matched with a tutee from Ecuador.
I was very nervous on the first day. I had never taught anyone, much less someone twice my age. Though my coordinators assured me that everything would be fine, I couldn’t help but think that my lesson plan wasn’t good enough. We arrived at our tutoring site and all of that went away. My tutee was gentle, kind and so very thoughtful. Each week we worked on job applications or legal documents, but not before she asked me how school was going and assured that I wasn’t feeling homesick. My spirits were lifted every Saturday afternoon after meeting with her. While I helped her with grammar, she taught me about life in Ecuador, earning citizenship in the United States, and the struggles of finding a job here. I felt so at ease sitting in the tiny teacher’s room with her, even joking with my mother that I had a “fill-in mom” for the weeks we were apart. My tutee and I learned the ins and outs of Skype while preparing for her job interviews. She taught me how to use my Macbook that I embarrassingly struggled to navigate. On some Saturdays, we would just sit and chat for the first hour or so; it was amazing how quickly I felt connected to her and even more incredible to see the people around me doing the same. Everyone was so patient and charismatic.
Through all of my work with the CSJ, I have seen these kinds of Hoyas: students who are passionate about what they are doing and will do anything to help out a tutee. Students who volunteer their nights twice a week to visit grateful families at their homes. Students who meet up with Georgetown staff between classes to help them study history for their citizenship tests. Being surrounded by these people was the first time I truly felt at home here at Georgetown: “breaking the bubble,” as my NSO leader phrased it. I have found my family on the hilltop.