Goodbyes are hard, even if they are only temporary. Ending the IEI summer program was an emotional day for everyone involved, but especially for the tutors and the students.
IEI held a small “graduation” ceremony at the end of the program. It recognized that our boys had gotten through the program and had done really well while doing it. Each of the boys was awarded a certificate of completion, as well as another small award for something kind of cheesy and dorky (like “Most Willing to Learn”). There was food and the instructors talked about their experiences with the students. The tutors and the students has prepared something special to show everyone else: a really ridiculous video of a dance we had choreographed and practiced during the course of the summer (no link, because I want to keep my dignity).
There was so much to be proud of. We had successfully pulled off the first cohort of the Intensive English Institute, the boys had done well, and we all had a great time while doing it. One of the boys wrote a short speech thanking the tutors for all of our work with them, and it included one of our inside jokes. I’m pretty sure just about all of us cried a little. Sometimes you just need to hear from the students that you’ve helped them and touched their lived, even though you already know it.
It was really difficult to come to the realization that we wouldn’t be seeing them every day anymore. We wouldn’t be spending hours at a time together, helping them with their English skills and becoming closer as a tiny family. It was so weird, though, because it wasn’t like we weren’t going to see them around campus for the rest of the year; they weren’t going back to Brazil just yet.
We did end up saying goodbye to one student for a much longer period of time. One of our boys decided it would be best for him to transfer to UW-Milwaukee to continue his education in the United States; UW-Whitewater didn’t have quite the program that he needed for his major. Knowing that we weren’t going to be seeing this student around campus was a terrible feeling, but he’s only in Milwaukee. We can still visit him and see how he’s doing.
I just don’t know how saying goodbye for good is going to go at the end of next summer. I’m not really looking forward to it; their program won’t allow them to leave Brazil for two years after they’ve returned and keeping in contact with them might be rough. But I know that they’ll do well with whatever they get into. Saying goodbye will just break all of our hearts, though.