Evelyn Browne’s interest in other cultures began when she was a child. Her father worked internationally, which gave her the opportunity to meet people from all over the world. She developed a passion for traveling and exploring other cultures over the years. When Evelyn was looking for a volunteer opportunity four years ago, the International Education Center seemed like a natural fit.
As a volunteer teacher of the conversation class at the IEC, Evelyn gets to learn about different cultures every day. “I find it very enriching, and I’ve learned a lot about countries I didn’t know much about,” she says. “I have had more fun doing this than anyone should be allowed to have when they’re volunteering.”
She also understands the struggles students experience when learning a new language. “I’m a first-generation American,” she says. “My parents and grandparents had to learn English when they came to the U.S. from Germany. My grandparents had heavy accents and made mistakes when they spoke, but they could speak well enough to go anywhere and do anything.”
Evelyn wants the same for her students. “I tell my students that my goal is not to teach them perfect English,” she says. “My hope is that they learn to feel confident and comfortable communicating with others.”
She also likes to interact with the students and expose them to American culture outside of the classroom. She plans quarterly field trips to various locations and events in the Twin Cities. She also occasionally hosts potluck dinners at her home for current and former students. Every year, she invites them over for Thanksgiving dinner. “I like being an ambassador for American culture,” she says. “They can ask me questions about anything in our culture, and I’m happy to help them understand.”
Evelyn marvels at the dedication of the students who come to class because they want to learn – not because they have to. “Every day, I have this wonderful opportunity to experience the best parts of the human spirit,” she says. “The students are learning a foreign language as adults, which is really hard. I have so much respect for them and enjoy being part of that process. I’ve learned a lot from them about the courage to make mistakes and be determined.”