Wednesday 7 Oct, 2015

Where in the World is Evelina?

Barcelona, Nice, Munich, Tokyo, Paris, Madrid and Beijing…Where in the world is Evelina?

Evelina is a Local Project Coordinator on EF’s Language Immersion team. It sounds pretty standard as far as job titles go – but when you dive a little deeper, her life begins to look a little less standard, and a little more like EF’s version of Indiana Jones. With four different languages under her belt – French, Spanish, German and Polish – Evelina travels all across the world, making new friends, speaking with local businesses, and experiencing different cultures, while coordinating EF’s Language Immersion tours.

Connecting with locals when you’re traveling can be a fun and exciting way to immerse yourself in a new culture, but it can also be a little intimidating. For many first time travelers, chatting with someone who speaks a different language can seem like a scary thing. But it doesn’t have to be! The trick to it all is finding a natural setting, and a simple way to break the ice. And that’s where Evelina comes in.Evelina Travel PhotoAll EF Language Immersion Tours include elements of cultural exchange, whether students visit local families at their house for dinner, or participate in an activity with local students at a school. One of Evelina’s primary responsibilities is making sure that these exchanges help foster student confidence and inspire them to practice their foreign language skills abroad. But to do that, and to find these special experiences, she has to think a little outside of the box.

The easiest thing for Evelina to do would be to open up a telephone book, or Google – sorry for the confusion there…do people even use telephone books anymore? – and start searching for local businesses and cultural organizations that are interested in partnering with her. But that’s not her style. Instead, Evelina spends around 70% of the year traveling, meeting face-to-face and communicating with local businesses, teachers and families who she can personally and professionally connect with in order to produce a growing list of cultural exchange activities for student travelers.

“My goal is to find and create an experience where students can learn about culture in a real way, but also gain the confidence to practice their language skills. I love hearing them say, ‘I didn’t even know I could speak this much French!’ Hopefully those moments inspire them to keep traveling, but to also keep learning new languages.”

By thoroughly getting to know the communities, she discovers, first-hand, what activities are going to help make a language immersion tour that much more authentic and experiential. Her approach to all of this is purely organic. In every city that she travel to, she’s built her own network. She stays with local friends whenever she can, and almost never eats dinner by herself.

“I try and connect with these communities as much as possible. And by doing that I meet new people and hear directly from them what activities or people I should be speaking to. Eventually, I have my own personal and professional network in each city. For example, Nice now feels like a second home to me.” Nice Street ArtHer grassroots strategy doesn’t just make her a bunch of new friends, it gives her the inside scoop on authentic cultural activities that are popular among the locals. Recently, Evelina organized an art activity in Nice with local street artists and students. Of course, in French, the artists discussed the history of street art, their artistic styles, techniques and interests, and also shared with everyone the art that they’ve created and the influences behind it. The students were then given a lesson in street art and created their own paintings on walls and T-shirts.

“This activity engaged students in a unique way that was both exciting and interesting to them, and most importantly it helped them practice their language skills without the fear of failure. We misspeak all the time in our own native language! So why worry if we accidentally use the wrong word in a foreign language. That’s how we learn. This type of setting makes it more comfortable for the students, gives them confidence, and helps eliminate that fear.”

For Evelina, the goal is much more than just helping students learn a new language. She wants to inspire them to build global relationships, and understand that making friends outside of the United States is not only easy, but hugely important.

“Hopefully my experiences and these cultural activities can show them that they too can build their own global network of friends. And whether it’s five or 10 years from now, they can travel back to Nice and visit with the local students and people that they met here. I want them to create a cultural exchange that becomes part of their life, not just something that lasts a couple weeks.”

Language Immersion
To learn a new language, it helps to fall in love with where it’s from. Our Language Immersion Tours make both happen by combining authentic cultural experiences with interactive lessons taught at EF International Language Schools or out on the road. Each day has a theme—like art, history or food—that connects the day’s lesson to hands-on activities and conversations with locals. Your students’ fluency expands along with their confidence and passion for the language.