Maggie Shope

Maggie with children from Peru
Maggie Shope, Interdisciplinary Physics with a focus in Medicine

Over the summer, I volunteered through a program called UBELONG as a physical education teacher at a strictly Spanish-speaking elementary school in Cusco, Peru for 7 weeks. My responsibilities were not clearly defined, so I had the responsibility and privilege of making myself useful in a variety of ways. Some days, I would come to school and the gym teacher would leave to coach a soccer tournament, so I would teach classes of students ranging from age 5 to 12. Other days, the teacher would teach volleyball skills, and I would work with Kristen, who was shy, giggling with her as she came out of her shell; or Michael, who had cerebral palsy, helping him adapt the exercise to something he could enjoy. My favorite part of the day was always recess, when I chatted with the kids or played games or taught them new words in English. They would ask me if I wanted to get married and what I was studying and if we had monkeys in the U.S., and I would ask about their family and their favorite subject and what they wanted to be when they grew up. Although these cultural exchanges were neither concrete nor measurable, I know that a piece of Wallenberg’s legacy lies in the “radical listening” that one does when one listens to hear and to understand. In class, I gave my time and my energy, but at recess I gave my ears and my heart, and the kids did the same.