Stacy Straub’s mother was only joking when she suggested that her daughter spend last summer teaching English in India, but Straub took the idea seriously. Two months later, with a new passport and work visa in hand, the Maryville student stepped from a London plane into a chaotic airport in Delhi, India, alone and more than just a little excited.
Straub, a fifth year physical therapy student and resident assistant on campus, made the decision to travel across the globe after a member of her family’s church sought to recruit her parents for the mission trip. Her parents turned down the request but suggested that Straub step in for them.
“I didn’t know what I was doing with my summer anyway and my parents already had the contact information for the organization. I got in touch with them and started asking questions,” Straub said. “I was completely independent and didn’t travel with a group. I just organized it through the South Asia National Missionary Alliance (SANMA) and they connected me with the school in India.”
Straub spent two months teaching English and physical education to elementary school children in the remote Indian village of Vankaylapadu. Being unable to speak the same language, Straub said she found it initially difficult to communicate with the children but soon discovered small, and sometimes forbidden, tricks.
“The older children could already speak English since everything they’re taught is in that language. It was the younger kids that were more challenging,” said Straub. “They hadn’t had English at all so I used a lot of flashcards and taught them songs and games in the P.E. portion. Pretty soon, the kids were teaching me three or four words a day in their dialect. Since we were only supposed to speak English, however, I couldn’t use it very much. It made the kids so excited to hear me speak their language that I slipped it in every now and then anyway.”
From the first day that she stepped from the plane in Delhi, Straub said she never felt homesick or unsafe. She always had transportation and an escort or fellow teacher with her. Every once in a while, she would sneak off to the Internet café to connect with her family and friends.
“There was no time to feel unsafe,” Straub said. “There was always someone helping out and I was never homesick. I made that my home and was always around people. I was there to work with the kids and serve God so it wasn’t a matter of getting homesick. It was actually nice being away from the American lifestyle for a while.”
In fact, when it came time for Straub to come home, she grappled with the idea of staying in India and making it her career. After seeing how much the children enjoyed her games and teaching style, Straub found it very difficult to leave.
“Until then, I really had no idea what I had done for them,” she said. “I was teaching them things that they had no concept of, like exercise, healthy eating and the importance of physical fitness. The appreciation they had was amazing. If I were to return, I would probably stay.”
Article by Amiee Shank