I loved my weekend alone in Johannesburg. Its funny to say that I traveled alone because I never felt alone, not the whole time! I met an amazing South African artist on the plane, connected with a great group of people at my hostel, and toured the city and had lunch with a group of women from The Netherlands. I had lost my voice in the dry winter air and everyone was so kind to me. Traveling “alone” can be amazing!!!
Tag Archives: International student
Today was a nice relaxing day. I slept in until 8:30 and got up slowly. Did a few pieces of laundry (at home it would’ve been a couple of loads not because I have that much laundry here but at home I can procrastinate), had coffee (one of my Woolworth’s purchases), and did a little writing. When I finally did get out of the hotel, I went to the gym for a couple of hours. Instead of taking a combi straight back to the hotel I walked down to the flea market. I’m glad I waited to buy souvenir from the flea market instead of buying them when I first got here. When we first got here there were still lots of tourists and so the starting price was much higher then as compared to now. I was specifically looking for a South Africa purse in George Mason’s school colors. And today I finally found it! I wanted a green bag with South Africa written in yellow. Perfect for fall semester!
When I got to the end of the market I decided to take a break and have lunch at Nando’s while I was at that end. Can I just say, that I’m really excited there is a Nando’s Chicken in D.C.! I’ll be able to get peri-peri sauce! It was a nice, light lunch, and delicious as always.
I went back to the market for a couple of small items I’d scoped out earlier. Then caught a combi back to the hotel. I am about 95% sure that this was an illegal taxi. I found out on Friday from Shane, one of the drivers I know, that they are assigned their route on their taxi license. So, if a driver is on the route he is assigned he knows that route. If someone needs to go off the main route the drivers will take them and if they are slow for fares on a particular day or time they’ll go off the main roads to see if anyone needs a ride. Our student accommodations are within a working hotel and so it is not only students who take the combis to the hotel but also the hotel workers. All of the drivers who are supposed to be on this route know where to go when you say “Summer Inn.” I used to say “Summerstrand Hotel” but “Summer Inn” is what the workers call it and all of the drivers know this place. However, my driver today did not know “Summer Inn.” His helper also didn’t know what I was talking about and of course they didn’t turn down their music to hear me more clearly *smiles* The helper just said, “You can show us.” The process was made less complicated because the passenger in the front seat knew what I was talking about and was able to give the driver directions in Xhosa.
I can still see the poster neatly hung on the wall of my manager’s cubicle at American Express. It was in full color and showed a single daisy in a terracotta pot. However, my understanding of feedback has stayed rooted in corporate America’s space. In my mind thinking of feedback as a gift always felt as genuine as those uber motivational posters every business major had in their dorm rooms in the 1990s. Feedback in work never felt like a gift but rather it always felt judgmental and punitive. Feedback was given with performance reviews where you were told if you were going to get a raise or explained why you were not receiving one. Feedback in school is generally tied to a grade and also feels punitive. The feedback is an explanation of what you did wrong. I’ll also say that receiving feedback in school had its own problematic roots that I’ve already delved into a bit. So, neither experience (work or school) had positive roots for me when it came to receiving feedback as a gift. Until recently. Over the past five semesters I have worked in a writing center, four semesters at SCSU’s The Write Place and one semester here at NMMU’s Writing Centre. Through my immersion in the writing center culture, pedagogy, and practices I realized that feedback can be a gift. I asked two of the people I’m working with this semester at NMMU to read through my thesis chapters and give me feedback on what I had written. When they returned them to me with detailed comments I felt like I had been given a gift. I read through the comments carefully taking in what they had to say. They were deliberative and inquisitive and I processed each one individually. I have now been both a manager and a consultant in the writing center where I gave feedback to employees and students. I hope that as I move into the classroom I can help my students understand how to receive feedback but more importantly, I hope I can model a healthy manor to give feedback as an instructor.
Magic can happen in the classroom, a tutoring session, or meeting with a colleuge in their office. You have to embrace it. Let there be space enough for it to happen and lastly, you have to let go of your agenda so it has space to flourish.
Today, I popped up to someone’s office for a few minutes so we could discuss questions that I had after the workshop. I mentioned my idea of turning students’ perceived negatives into a positive. There was a lot of discussion at the workshop about how the students are not ready for university level education. The lecturers talked about how students use electronic devises in the classroom and how disruptive it can be to them as they try to teach. It seems this topic of discussion comes up quite a bit no matter which country I’m in. They started talking about how students multitask in their personal time or time away from the classroom. The conversation then took a sharp and predictable turn to “but they’re multitasking poorly.” So, this morning in our conversation I mentioned to the woman conducting these workshops, that multitasking is exactly what lectures expect from students, they just don’t want them using electronic devises to do it. For example, if a student is taking notes they are multitasking. The student has to listen to the instructor, process the information, and then translate it into notes on their paper. In order for the student to take notes well they have to listen, process, and write almost simultaneously. My real point was basically, like with employees, when training (teaching) you have to meet students where they are and then go from there.
I had a few more questions for her about South Africa’s higher education system, as a whole. It is a completely different system than I’m used to in the United States. The only instructors who get courses on pedagogy are in the education faculty (department). Other faculties (departments) assume teaching is common sense, everyone can do it. I was a bit surprised by this way of thinking but at the same time, not totally surprised. If this meeting had happened back in February, I would have been blown away. However, having been here this long and worked with as many students as I have, I had already picked up on this attitude. This attitude reflects in their teaching practices as well because in the workshop they mentioned several times not wanting to “spoon-feed” students. I know I mentioned that in the previous posting on this workshop but it really made an impression on me!
We went on to discuss the biggest debate in South Africa’s higher education circles, the restructuring of higher education to a four-year degree. This does not mean that South Africa is considering transforming to a liberal arts based educational system, but rather this additional year would be a transition year. She stated that many students drop out because they aren’t fully prepared for university life and this unpreparedness expresses itself in two ways. First, students who don’t have to work, away from home for the first time, and cannot handle this level of freedom. These students end up failing out of university because they party too much. The second group fails out of university because they are not fully prepared academically. So, these students come to university, but they are not fully prepared for the academic rigor they encounter in the classroom. Additionally, these students are generally balancing more responsibilities along with adjusting to university academics. They are probably working and could also be taking care of their younger siblings for example.
I’m looking forward to my next workshop on Thursday, Authentic assessment of student learning.
“We’re out of milk.”
My face fell and then he told me, “But he’s bringing some from South Campus.”
In my mind I thought, is he bringing it or going to bring it. So I asked him if it was actually on its way.
He replied, “Yes, he’s on his way now with the milk.”
Wait, I know this usage…is he on his way now? Now, now? or just now?
He said, “My manager said that he is on his way.” Then with a sly smile, “I hope you aren’t in a hurry.”
I’m not sure how many time I heard that from Manus this weekend, but whenever he said it, I smiled. Because I knew we were about to have another little adventure. I had an idea of what we were going to do because of this awesome video Chris, from NMMU’s International Office made. However, I didn’t have an itinerary for the weekend even though there was a rumor of one among our travel group.
We were picked up at our accommodation around 10 on Friday. We were on time but the combis were not. But as we know by now, Africa is flixible. *smiles* We got everyone loaded into the two vans and headed to the third student accommodations to pick-up the last students for our trip. Evidently, they had already been there once to attempt getting the students but no one had answered the door. However, when we pulled up this time they were waiting outside for us. With the last students onboard we got on the highway. I was looking forward to our first stop at Nanaga Farm Stall, where we had lunch when we did our elephant ride. I knew that we had some yummy treats waiting for us there! I got an egg and cheese sandwich on an oven bun. It was amazing! I also got some chips (crisps) for later and drinks. I don’t know what it is but I’m always thirsty here. After our stop we still had 2/3 of our drive left before we arrived at the farm.
Our next stop was a gas station and we were told that we only had 45 minutes left on our trip. What was left out was that it was 45 minutes down a dirt/gravel road. One aspect of my study abroad experience here is that I always feel like we are dealing with a lack of information when we are on a school sponsored event. Back home we always have a lot of information but here it is never enough. One other quick point about road trips here…it is always difficult to know how long we have been in the car. I feel like a child again. Since all of the markers are metric and the cars or vans are in kpm it can be difficult to determine how long we’ve been on the road or how much longer we have to go. Couple those with the wide open spaces and all of these trips are new areas we are traveling…well, it always feels like we are driving much longer distances than time has actually passed.
The timing for the trip was perfect because at about 1/2 way through our semester everyone enjoyed being in an actual home again. The couple me and the other SCSU girls stayed with welcomed us with open arms! We had a fire on their back porch the first night we were there with beer and wine. They got us warm from the inside out! Then the next two days were a couple of the best I’ve had since being here in South Africa. We hiked, fed baby kudu who had been orphaned because of hunters, saw goats that were less than 48 hours old, had an impromptu dance party, and we ate! Oh, the food was beyond amazing! And my stomach did not get a chance to even growl the whole weekend.
Then on Sunday we all swam into the jail. The water was SO cold that if I was pregnant my child would be getting ice cream, not milk! The formation is called the jail because there is only one way in and that is through the “Front Door.” I’m sure it is a great place to cool off in the mid-December heat but at the beginning of Autumn, when no sun warms the water-it was c-o-l-d! Like everything else I’ve done since landing in South Africa, I was glad I did it! The formation has been created by water eroding the rocks of the mountain until it cut through. Now, there is a waterfall and this brilliant single formation. As SCSU students this trip is included as part of our program fee and I’m thankful it was.
Yes, I have come to peace with the fact that I am going to miss something from my well-crafted South African Bucket List. But I feel like I’m just now hitting my stride with my internship and I’ve reached the half-way tipping point of my trip. However, just now I’m feeling like I have built a rapport with my colleagues, know how to work with the students in this academic environment, and feel my skill level being raised by my experience. Students in classes have a built-in structure to their experience (syllabus and timetable). But having a new internship position I have been learning along with my supervisors how I can be the most productive. While I was in my first semester in the Write Place at SCSU I had ENGL 654 where I learned the pedagogy of US writing center’s and The WP specifically through our conversations. Along with my internship here in South Africa, I have been doing a LOT of reading! I ordered an ebook version of Changing Spaces, which is about the unique roll of writing centers in South Africa’s university system. At the same time I am also trying to understand the distinct educational system in South Africa with the mix of students within the system. I feel like my time here is a long snapshot because 6 months is not a very long time but it is longer than the Spring Break experience I had in 2013.
Ok, so you have had an amazing study abroad experience but now what? These are good tips on how to best capitalize on your semester abroad and incorporate your unique experience into your job search resource package. Study abroad often gets relayed back home to friends and family as a long trip. But as students who are eventually entering the job market (like it or not) we need to think of our time abroad also through the lens of our future interviewers.
One of the questions I’m often asked by friends who haven’t studied African history is what might have happened to the continent if it hadn’t been colonized. It’s interesting to look at the following map of African politico-tribal units circa 1844 by Swedish artist Nikolaj Cyon in the light of this question:
I haven’t been able to find any firm documentation on the origin of the name Alkebu-lan, although a variety of questionably sourced websites suggest that it’s an Arabic phrase meaning “land of the blacks” – supposedly an original name for Africa. Cyon notes in a presentation that the map represents the culmination of an alternate history where the Black Plague killed significantly more Europeans than was actually the case, presumably reducing the amount of early colonization which would have occurred. Thus, while many of these territorial groupings appear feasible to…
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