Language Learning Students Show Visually Impaired People the World
Traveleyes is a company that pairs visually impaired people (“VIPs”) with sighted guides and takes them on journeys around the world. Inspired by the potential connections between their work and the UWC values, Traveleyes teamed up with the English Language Learning (ELL) Department at UWC Maastricht in May 2018 to provide a mutually beneficial learning experience: sending three ELL students to participate in a Traveleyes adventure in Tuscany, Italy. This was a “magic partnership of learning and exchange” for students: Machi (Japan), Souk (Laos) and Leila (Western Sahara), all in their first year at UWC Maastricht.
Niki Cooper, English Language & Learning Coordinator at UWC Maastricht, explains that she is passionate about combining service and language acquisition - which was exactly the result of the Traveleyes and UWC Maastricht partnership. Amar Latif, Founder and Director of Traveleyes, first visited UWC Maastricht in March of 2018 and, says Niki, “the rest is history! Amar was bowled over by our students, their passion and their stories and his short visit truly humbled him.”
For the students on the trip, the need to guide through verbal cues and explanations meant continuous language use and rapid vocabulary expansion. As native English speakers, the VIPs facilitated this language acquisition and gave one-on-one English support. Students also developed a service mindset through the responsibility of caring for a VIP each day, and learned valuable planning and executive skills while fundraising for the trip itself. In return, the VIPs experienced Italy through the intercultural eyes of our students, while learning from their stories, their unique cultural perspectives and their experience of a UWC education - fostering mutual respect, understanding and empathy.
Machi, an English Language Learning student from Japan, reflects:
“For me it was an experience that really had an impact on me and how I think about perceptions. It was not only about English development but learning about a different form of diversity. It was the first time I had interacted with VIPs and I was amazed because they used their senses and I learnt about how they interpreted the world. I became more aware that eyes are not the only sense we can use to experience the world. It became like a ToK (Theory of Knowledge) lesson!”