Briercrest student heads to Pakistan to teach

Posted: July 22, 2010

By Amy Robertson

Jurgens with a Grade 3 boy named Raman, whom she helped with English reading. Submitted photo.

housands of college students take summer internships to make them more attractive to employers after graduation.

Most don’t choose to do so in the blistering heat of Pakistan.

While most of Kelly Jurgens’ Briercrest College and Seminary classmates chose Hong Kong, a safer, more open, and much cooler location for their pre-internships in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages, the 21-year-old Nipawin, Sask. resident chose to go to Pakistan.

A family member who knows a teacher there told Jurgens how badly students needed people who could teach in English, the language of education in Pakistan. This is particularly important for women, who often have fewer educational opportunities than men.

“It kind of tugged on my heart strings,” Jurgens said.

Jurgens, who is working with a non-government organization in northern Pakistan, arrived in Gilgit June 12 and will return to Canada in August.

She helped teach reading and mathematics at a primary school until classes let out for the summer last month, and she will begin teaching men’s and women’s English classes July 26. She will also run a vacation Bible school for children the first week in August.

Jurgens said she has built relationships with local teenagers through “class field trips, parties, and outings to the town bazaar” while living with a local Pakistani family. She has also been sharing conversation about faith and God whenever she can.

Her team in Pakistan works closely with the only church in northern Pakistan—an area of more than 1.5 million people.

“I’m hearing stories about God opening doors—people have lots of questions,” she said.

Though Jurgens has taught in church contexts and participated in teaching practicums through her TESOL degree program at Briercrest, this summer in Pakistan is her first time at the front of a classroom on her own.

Jurgens' group, travelling by jeep through northern Afghanistan. Submitted photo.

Many of her classmates are confident in their abilities to teach thanks to two years of study at Briercrest. Jurgens’ perspective is different.

“No, I don’t think anyone is completely prepared when they walk into a class,” she said.

Though she’s glad for the training and character formation her education has offered so far, she said God is the one who has truly prepared her.

“I’ve trusted God to equip me, and He has.”

This kind of adventure is nothing new for Jurgens, who spent time in Guatemala, Mexico, Hawaii, and Europe before beginning her studies at Briercrest.

Her overseas experience “gave her a good idea” of how she might respond to culture shock, she said, but “Pakistan is really different.”

In spite of the difference, Jurgens provides glowing updates to friends back home via email.

“The primary school is out for the summer,” she wrote in one update. “We finished with ‘Fun Day’ including slip 'n slide, watermelon, and water balloon games, which I helped set up. The kids had an absolute blast, but I was sad to say goodbye, even though I had only been in the Grade 1 class for a few weeks. I had the opportunity to teach a young girl, Shadab, how to add single digits. It was exciting to see her face light up as she understood and got more confident.”

I’ve trusted God to equip me, and He has.

“Last weekend a dozen of us went on a trek to Nanga Parbat basecamp,” she wrote later on. “What pleasure it was to unzip the tent to see the word's ninth highest mountain. Blisters and burn and all, it was an incredibly fun and adventurous trip. A few of us even decided to run the last stretch of a hot and winding road (where others jeeped) about five miles with two km cliff drops [and] a valley walled in by majestic mountains.”

This trip is functioning as a pre-cursor for a formal teaching internship Jurgens will participate in next summer as part of a BA in Applied Linguistics: TESOL.

After graduation in 2012, Jurgens hopes to teach English overseas.

Front banner: Jurgens with four young women from an English class offered through an organization affiliated with the NGO Jurgens is working with. "We went on a 16-hour picnic, including chai stops, boat rides, wading in the lake with watermelon, supper, riding on top of a 15-passenger van, and special conversations," Jurgens said. "It was a time they could be free to be girls."