Village Green resident Rachel Hulsey doesn’t have her teaching certificate yet, but she’s already got some students — 5,556 miles away.
The rising college junior who’s majoring in elementary education is counting the days till next summer, when she hopes to go back to Koropi, Greece, and check on her middle school students.
“This was my first international mission trip,” said the 2015 Farragut High School graduate, “but I’ve been on three local mission trips over the last few years. I’ve been a member of West Park Baptist my whole life. They have a refugee and international ministry that offers English as a Second Language and other courses.”
Hulsey loved her time on the outskirts of Athens.
“I was part of a team of 15 college students and recent high school graduates from West Park. We spent about 10 days in Koropi. We facilitated an English camp for local Greek children and refugees just outside of Athens with AMG, Advancing the Ministries of God, an organization that works in about 60 countries. AMG was started in Greece right after the Olympics in Athens in 2004.”
Hulsey said the church has partnered with AMG since they started, even sending a team over to help build the Cosmovision conference center where her group lodged, and sending an ESL team every summer.
“I loved the trip,” she said. “With it being my first time out of the country, I was a little skeptical at first, but when we got there, everyone was so welcoming. And where we thought we’d have a barrier between the kids and ourselves, we actually connected thanks to social media and similar interests.
“Some of my friends from the trip and I are still close and we talk almost every day. While
I’m friends with some of my [middle school] students on Facebook and keep up with them, it was
the high school students that helped our classes that I really bonded with.
“Two friends of mine are actually coming to live in the states for a year,” she added. “We’ve already talked about how much fun it will be next year if I have the opportunity to serve on the team again and how great it will be to be able to hang out here in America with them.”
Because plans changed, Hulsey said, the group wasn’t able to go into a refugee camp, but about 10 refugee students were brought to the camp every day. In addition, they worked with local children to help them learn English.
“We had an elementary class, a middle school class and a high school class,” Hulsey said. “There were 15 in my class. I taught the middle school class with three other people. We had an average of 15 to 20 kids in each of the three classes.
“We focused on regular vocab words,” she added. “We had three classes every day and our theme was villains versus superheroes. The first day was David and Goliath and we taught them the words using vocab games.”
Hulsey said learning Greek was a huge challenge, since the alphabet [“think of fraternity and sorority names,” she said] is completely different.
“We picked up on how to say ‘good morning’ and ‘good night.’ Good morning is ... “kaliméra in” English and “Good night” is ... “kalinychta” in English.
Hulsey said there’s one other thing drawing her back to Greece, if she doesn’t get it here first: spanakopita.
“It is like spinach and cheese wrapped up almost like an eggroll,” she said. “It is really, really, really good and I know they sell it at Greek Fest here in the fall so I’m really looking forward to Greek Fest.”
“We went to Corinth,” she added, “and they made a reservation for us at a restaurant. They ordered everything on the menu for us for each group of four so we could try everything. They had gyros with Tzatziki sauce. We had fried mozzarella cheese and orange juice that was pretty interesting. I haven’t been able to find it here.”
Hulsey said teaching in Greece was wonderful and next summer she hopes to be even more involved.
“This year the lesson plans were created for us,” she said. “Next year, I’d like to be able to help write the lesson plans.”