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Humans of VISAS



“Here, we strive to recognize volunteers and international participants who embody the courage, grace, and compassion, upon which the VISAS community is founded.”


     Grant Tabler is a second-year, double-majoring in Sociology and Government, with a minor in French. Grant started volunteering with VISAS during the spring of his first year at Newcomb Dining Hall with the Workplace ESL Assistant program. Every week, Grant meets with Deme, an employee from Ethiopia, to practice English with casual conversation and fun activities. Coming in with some familiarity of the Habesha culture, Grant has done well to help bridge the gap between the U.S. university culture and that of Ethiopia in his time with Deme. Since he began volunteering nearly a year ago, Grant has enjoyed building a connection with Deme and learning about her life stories and culture. He says the most rewarding aspect of the program is getting to see the progress in Deme’s confidence and comfort with English every week. After he graduates, Grant hopes to journey to France for a year to continue pursuing his passion for teaching English. Eventually, he hopes to earn a JD or PhD and pursue a career at the intersection of sociology and government. Until he takes off on such pursuits, we are thankful to have Grant here with VISAS as he continues to make a positive difference in the University community.



     Haruka Hasegawa is a PhD candidate in Economics from Kyushu, the sourthernmost of the four main islands of Japan. Haruka’s collegiate career began with her undergraduate studies at Japan’s Kobe University where she focused on development economics. After graduating, Haruka worked as a consultant in Tokyo before moving to the U.S. to earn a master’s degree at Boston University. Along the way, she decided to shift her focus to international trade and returned to Tokyo to work in foreign affairs. Here in Charlottesville, Haruka continues her focus on international trade in pursuit of her doctorate. Haruka became involved with VISAS her first year at UVa, in 2015, working with ESL Assistants in her CAELC ESL classes. Haruka quickly developed as a leader and, in 2016, took on the role as a panelist for the “Teaching as a Graduate Student” workshop series that welcomes and helps acclimate new international TAs to the university. Through these efforts, Haruka has used her insight to help many international students overcome the challenges she faced when she was a new international graduate student in the U.S. This year, in addition to continuing her efforts as a panelist, Haruka has become involved with the Language Consultant (LC) program. She meets with her LC, Mae, on a weekly basis to practice English speaking and learn about different aspects of the U.S. and university culture. Hoping to pursue an academic career in the U.S., Haruka truly appreciates everything she can learn from Mae about the U.S. undergraduate student life, from football games and March Madness to academics and everyday activities. We are sincerely grateful and honored to have gotten to know Haruka and to have her as a member of the VISAS family.



     Sean Hood is a fourth-year, from Winchester, VA, majoring in Biology and hoping to pursue a career in medicine following graduation. Sean is returning for his third semester with the VISAS Classroom Consultant (CC) Program, in which volunteers help international graduate students build the language and cultural skills needed to become successful teaching assistants (TAs) here at UVA. With experience as a student in many TA-driven courses, Sean joined the CC Program because he believed he could offer insight as to how information is most effectively conveyed in a classroom setting. However, through his efforts as a CC, Sean has realized that the most impactful moments of learning often do not derive from the advice that he and other volunteers give to the international TAs, but instead from the friendships that are built among volunteers and international participants as the semester progresses. Through this process, Sean insists the international participants have taught him more than he could ever teach them. In turn, he believes all that he has learned has helped him grow as a student here at UVA and, further, as an aspiring care provider for his future life in medicine.



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