Posted by: Mark Wollemann: On the move | April 25, 2013

I love this stuff …

JMC Rocks

I’ve chronicled most of this year in Blagoevgrad in short bursts on Facebook. But it’s been a good and interesting year for us, and so it’s worthy of trying to frame at least a few thoughts here as the school year is about to close.

As I entered the classroom for the first time in the fall of 2011, I was nervous, unsure of myself, anxious and hopeful. Would I get through a semester without embarrassing myself? I wasn’t sure.

Well, I’ve made it through four semesters now. I think I’m getting the hang of it. I prepare. I try to make it relevant. I try to have a little fun. I laugh at myself when I goof something up. I try to remember what it was like to sit in those uncomfortable seats. I try to remember that while they’re paying for this, they’re also learning about themselves and their limitations — they procrastinate, they become over-involved in extra curricular activities, they work hard and play hard. They get sick (from, um, “playing” too hard, perhaps). And sometimes they just don’t want to be there. But I show up — every time I’m supposed to, people! — and try to give them something useful. Some days I’m better than on other days, but hell, the same can be said of the students.

Anyway, I was talking with Melody yesterday and shared with her this little realization. I love this stuff. I can’t say that I reach every student; I’m not sure what they say when I’m not around. But I know I’ve reached a few. And some of them have touched my heart. They’ve been generous in their praise. They’ve packed my classrooms more often than not. They seem eager to do the work and participate in this process (ahem, most of the time). They remind me why it matters that we’re here. The young people — from so many foreign lands — have so much promise, so much life, and so much passion to succeed. … I’ve never seen more determined young people in my life. Their passion, their energy, their determination, their zeal for life has helped me tap into the same wellspring. I feel younger and more alive, thanks to them.

That’s something I can’t say about every job I’ve ever had in this life. Just call me lucky.

P.S. More next time on biking (was chased by a dog today for the first time all year!), my bronze medal, our plans for the summer and Melody’s promotion (she’s now my boss at home and at work).

P.P.S. The picture above is from the annual Journalism and Mass Communications student-organized party/celebration of the good happening in JMC at AUBG.




  2. Great insights, Mark. Congrats on all you’ve accomplished. Your charges are no doubt the better because of the passion you bring to the classroom. Occasionally I’ll look out over my class and think how much each of them (or someone in their household) is paying to have me stand in front of them for 105 minutes each night. The rate is daunting, and sometimes I don’t feel like they got their money’s worth. But then you hear from them months or years later, and you realize that maybe the investment has more than paid for itself. That part never gets old. Best to you and Melody.

  3. I so admired you for having the guts to take such a huge risk when you first left for Bulgaria — and now I’m so happy that you’re reaping the rewards. You’ll never know how many lives you’ll shape or how many valuable lessons you’ll instill, both through your example and through your lessons in the classroom, but it sounds like you’re creating quite a wonderful and enduring legacy. (And also helping a few random dogs get in their daily exercise. 🙂 Congratulations on all counts!

  4. So gratifying to see that your leap of faith is reaping rewards for you and Melody and your students in Blagoevgrad (just wanted to see if I could spell that). Thanks so much for sharing episodes and insights from your lift there. Your comments here are a reminder that we have an impact on the people around us whether we notice or not, so it’s good to notice.

  5. Sarah talks about her professors, and how they have shaped her decisions, career and more. You are giving these kids such a gift and creating a legacy for yourself. Nothing could be more meaningful.xoxox

  6. […] Mark wrote often about his biking adventures  (watch him getting chased by stray dogs in this video in this video ) and about his amazement at our lucky situation that allowed him to make the transition from newspaper editor to college professor. […]

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