Elena Van Den Berg
Year : 2015
Major: History and Education double major, with a Geology Minor
What are your plans for the summer?
This summer I’ll be spending two months in Bulgaria where I’ll be substitute teaching English as a volunteer at local secondary schools. And I’ll also be going to Sofia to do an English camp for a two weeks.
How did you learn about these opportunities in Bulgaria?
Well, it’s actually pretty cool because everything sort of came flying into my lap. I went to Bulgaria for the first time three years ago, I think, and I was originally going to go as a jazz band – but that got cancelled so I ended up going there to do an English camp with my church. As soon as I left, I knew that’s where I needed to be, so I came back the next year—and just talking with a lot of the teenagers there, I realized I could be a leader and an example for those people. I spent all of last year working at a job to go back that summer. Then my dad said no, so I was quite frustrated. But then I ended up meeting a basketball team from Sofia and different ministries that were working there as well and I slowly grew and got more connections. And then all the opportunities like substitute teaching and English camp came up and now I get to do all of them!
So, as a substitute teacher, will you be teaching everyday while someone is away for the summer or will you be helping out here and there?
I’ll be helping out here and there. I know I’m going to be kind of Assistant teaching for a bit with one of the other teachers to get the swing of things and I’ll be preparing before I leave and it’ll be mostly English.
Did you experience any significant language barrier last time you went to Bulgaria?
Yes! Because Bulgarians speak Bulgarian which is a Cyrillic-influenced language—a Slavic Language with a Cyrillic alphabet. So it is a completely different language that doesn’t sound like anything I’d ever heard. It’s a beautiful language though. So it is a little hard because you have no idea what they’re saying. But a large portion of the more advanced high schoolers, especially those who are planning on going to college, speak enough English to be able to communicate with them.
How did you raise all the money to go?
I worked jobs—well a job. I spent all last year working in a retirement home to raise the money to go. This year I’m selling feather hair extensions that you can really easily clip in and out of your hair just for $5. They’re really cheap and cute so I think they’re worth it.
How can readers get in touch to buy them from you?
They can find me on facebook or email me at email@example.com!