July 15, 2003 - Columbus Telegram: Peace Corps Volunteers Lara and Tyler Tiller teach in Kazakhstan

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Kazakstan : Peace Corps Kazakhstan : The Peace Corps in Kazakstan: July 15, 2003 - Columbus Telegram: Peace Corps Volunteers Lara and Tyler Tiller teach in Kazakhstan

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Peace Corps Volunteers Lara and Tyler Tiller teach in Kazakhstan

Peace Corps Volunteers Lara and Tyler Tiller teach in Kazakhstan

Area couple gives Peace Corps a chance

By CLARK GRELL / Telegram Staff Writer

FULLERTON - Lara Tiller teaches English to more than 100 kids.

Yet, Tiller is learning more in her surroundings than the students are. That's because she has been teaching in Rudny, Kazakhstan, as part of a mission for the Peace Corps volunteer organization.

"I'm learning much more than they are from me," Tiller said. "I've learned a great deal about myself and the people over there."

Tiller and her husband, Tyler, of Fullerton have been in Rudny for a year. They came back for a month break that started in mid-June and will return to continue to work in Rudny until next summer, when their mission is complete.

While kids in grades six-11 learn English terms from Lara, Tyler is teaching economics to high schoolers. But despite their knowledge in those areas, both Lara and Tyler had a rough start. The Tillers had to take a three-month training course in Russian and courses for other programs.

"Russian is very difficult to learn," Tiller said. "Even after being there for a year - I still don't know as much as I probably should."

Once Tiller and her husband joined the Peace Corps, they had the choice of working in Central Asia, Africa or South America. They chose Central Asia and were stationed in Kazakhstan, where more than 100 other Peace Corps volunteers are.

Tiller's interest in other cultures and other parts of the world drove her and Tyler to enter the Peace Corps.

"It was suggested to my husband who was going to (University of Nebraska at Omaha)," she said. "We've always wanted to travel and see and do different things."

Once in Rudny, the Tillers were placed in a host home to get accustomed to the culture and the standard of living in the city of 100,000.

"At first it's very difficult because you're without friends and family," Tiller said. "You're trying to learn their language and their culture. It's been good. I look back now and know I've learned a lot and made good friends over there."

Tiller said she has found enjoyment in teaching English to youths. She teaches 13 hours a week in a school format similar to ones in the United States. The students go to class six days a week but get the same amount of break for the summer as American students do.

"I thought the kids would be a lot more respectful over there, but they're just like kids here (in America)," Tiller said. "They give you problems, but some are very anxious to learn English. The students are good. They appreciate having a native speaker of English in the school."

She has formed especially strong relationships with many of the students, including five who wrote essays for Tiller on the differences between Kazakhstan and the United States. Olga, Elvira, Gulshat, Sergey and Anna range in grades from eight to 11, and Tiller's teaching helped them gain knowledge of American holidays and weather, among other things.

Tiller said Kazakhstan does not require students to learn English, but many people in the country show a high interest in learning it.

"English is the most popular language to learn over there because they know if they can speak English, they might be able to get a higher-paying job," Tiller said.

Tiller graduated from Concordia University in Seward in 1995 with a degree in graphic design. Teaching was never anything she got involved with until she got to Rudny.

"There wasn't too much you can do with graphic designing over there, and they were in a need for English teachers," Tiller said. "Anybody that's willing can teach English."

Tiller is teaching herself how to adapt to a culture like Russia's.

"You learn what you can adapt to and what you can't," Tiller said. "You are under a lot of stress - everyone wanting you to speak their language to communicate. They want you to adapt to their culture and their foods. You learn to become more flexible and more patient."

And patience is needed for Tiller, who is in a country with harsh winters, power outages on a regular basis and no hot water in the summers.

"My perspective of America has changed," she said. "I appreciate more what we have here (in America). I think we take it for granted too often the comforts we have and the freedoms we have."

The Peace Corps mission is limited to two years. After that, the volunteers return home to continue their normal lives. However, volunteers have the option of picking up another year.

"You can extend to go another year, but I think we'll be ready to come back," Tiller said.

Tiller said she has found enjoyment in her learning experience in Rudny and enjoyment in helping those living there succeed.

"I think I've felt satisfaction knowing in some way I am contributing to how people overseas view Americans in a positive way," she said.

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Story Source: Columbus Telegram

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Kazakhstan



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