Lauren, EMA Year 1 Program Director shares her experience with 2019 EMA Year 1 students.
For most of our students, this year in Chiang Mai is the first time that they have left Myanmar. They are living in a new culture (Thailand) and spending most of their class time studying in a new language (English). This coupled with being far away from their families who sometimes face significant health challenges, and living as young adults in a dorm like setting: can be stressful. At first, most of them were shy; they were hesitant to speak English and had quite a bit of nervous laughter when I tried to engage them in conversation. They also seemed quite excited at first, as they were embarking on a new adventure in Thailand for the year.
Every year some of the biggest challenges include helping the students to develop critical thinking skills that are necessary to work as a successful Physician Assistant. In addition our students must go from a very basic knowledge of English to at least an intermediate level by the End of Year 1. The students spend over 20 hours a week focusing exclusively on English Language learning. In addition they are in class learning Math, Medical Math, Basic Sciences, Critical Thinking and Computer the rest of their week. We organize and provide individualized tutoring for the students and attempt to meet them where they are when they have specific needs. We organize time to practice conversational English with them as well as encouraging them to study and practice on their own.
About 3-4 months into Year 1 we notice a significant improvement in English understanding, conversation and critical thinking ability with most of our students. This is so exciting! By the end of the year the students are studying Science and looking forward to delving into medical concepts in Year 2. You can see the growth and focus developing. It is exciting to talk to them and hear about their clarifying vision for their people.
Quality teachers and volunteers, their own attitudes and hard work, all together contribute to the success of Year 1 students. The wonderful teamwork and resources of the whole EMA team: all of the financial pieces and staff, administrators, dorm parents, and dorm leader contributes. It is a huge project and the vision of our leaders and commitment of our team enables it to work. Most of all, however it is the students themselves, their own vision, commitment and willingness to work hard.
Lauren lives in Chiang Mai with her husband, daughter and newborn son. She is a nurse working with EMA as Year 1 Director and Chiang Mai Site Manager to help provide quality healthcare to the Karen people in Myanmar and Thailand.