My name is Aubrey Hoeppner, and I have just finished my junior year at Pepperdine University in California, though I am from Chicago. I have been so blessed with the opportunity to spend three months with Ellie and Peter in Bulgaria. Last summer I had meetings with Bob, Ellie, and Christy Schweigert to discuss the possibility of me coming to Sofia for an internship. The time of my possible departure seemed so far away then, but the year flew by, and I have now been in Sofia for a month and a half.

My main task right now is helping Ellie with her English classes. She has two small classes meeting now, and because of their size she is able to tailor the lessons to their needs in a personal way. In the more advanced class we have a group of people who work for a construction and engineering company that is looking at connecting with a foreign company. English could soon become very important for them as they interact with foreigners in business. They are learning how to use English in a business environment through activities like holding mock staff meetings and presenting business models to the class. I am in the classes to help with pronunciation and explanation and to teach some of the more basic lessons. My biggest role, though, is to have individual conversations with each of the students. Throughout the week I meet with them for 30 to 45 minutes each and have conversations about their work, family, and interests. I get to talk to them about really specific things so that they will learn how to describe their work articulately and comfortably. Yesterday I was meeting with a woman who is an accountant, and we learned the word “collateral,” which she wrote down with great excitement. Hopefully by spending time talking with a native English speaker with whom Bulgarian is not an option, the students will develop conversation skills and confidence in their speaking abilities.

My participation in these classes and lessons is not only helpful for the students, but it is teaching me a lot as well. For example, I have already learned several Bulgarian terms to forcefully express frustration, picked up from the students’ displeasure with the logical incongruities of English. I felt personal guilt when we revealed to one student that the combo “ea” can be pronounced at least three different ways with no in-word warning as to which is correct. I also am learning a lot about teaching by watching Ellie and by presenting material to the classes. It is a challenge to teach English when I can’t explain things in Bulgarian, but I do some acting and synonym hunting to get the message across.

I have really enjoyed talking with Peter and Ellie about the way that they would like to use Integra in influencing individuals and in changing the way business is done here. They are showing me how we can be involved in God’s work to redeem what has been corrupted. Ellie uses Christian holidays in English classes and talks about the origins of these holidays. A couple of the people in one class are unemployed or are going through some tough life situations, and I am getting to hear about their struggles and encourage them as they learn English. I am getting a very personal education in the day-to-day concerns of the Bulgarian people, and hopefully I am able to be an encouragement to those here as I learn.

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