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: St. Cloud State Study Abroad
Cubata Portuguese Grill was definitely an experience for the senses! A big group of us went there last night and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. `One of the girls who got there first and was familiar with the restaurant ordered for the whole group. The owner asks only how many people are in your group and what meat you want and then he takes it from there.
This is a picture of me with the owner.
Here is a few pictures of our food. The consensus at my end of the table was that these were the best chips (fries) we’d had since landing in South Africa.
It was quite a feast!
Yes, photographic evidence of two of the Germans eating with their hands! We’ve been a good influence on them 😉
Very happy and full group of people!
Oh, but we did have a little room left for ice-cream.
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.
Each time someone has asked me, “When are you leaving?” I responded, “June 22nd” But one of my fellow SCSU students corrected me. We actually leave on June 21st and get back to Minneapolis on the 22nd. I almost started crying. One day doesn’t make that big of a difference, in the big scheme of things but really…when you don’t want to leave as it is, its heartbreaking.
Everything we discussed in the workshop kept coming back to the NMMU students. Since the context a lecturer can have an immediate impact is the classroom. If the classrooms are empty, who would you teach? Once o the presenters did mention that she’d had a professor who would give the lecture even if no one attended class that day but most people would not do that. The student body and individual students need to be considered when thinking about teaching at NMMU.
When asked about their students the lecturers were able to create a long list of attributes which make NMMU students unique in their diversity. First, multiracial/multicultural, the person who listed this attribute only said multiracial but here you always have to follow with multicultural. There are black South Africans who are Xhosa, Zulu, or one of the other distinct cultures still thriving within the boarders of this country. There was some discussion around the language policy, which states that students have the right to receive instruction in their dominate language. The provided the facilitator to provide resources to the lectures for how they can get support fulfilling this requirement.
Next, they talked about the life experiences students bring to the classroom. Students come to NMMU from rural communities and urban areas. This was one of the aspects of diversity that was talked about during our orientation. We were cautioned against thinking that as international students we were the only ones going through culture shock. Rather to be kind to our South African classmates because they could be going through culture shock as well. I couldn’t help but think of SCSU when we were told about the urban/rural divide because we have students who go through culture shock coming from tiny towns but I’m not sure how the SCSU addresses it.
Another aspect to NMMU students follows the larger context of the South African university system as a whole. When South Africa became a democracy in 1994 and the Apartheid government was officially over, suddenly the majority of students had access to the higher educational system. The transition was overnight, not in the least bit gradual. Universities are still coping or trying to cope with this paradigm shift. According to the Department of Education 70% of South African university students are the first in their families to enroll in higher education. Of the students who enroll in higher education programs 50% of them do not complete their program. Dropout rate for first-year students is 30%, while 20% dropout within year 2 or 3 (it takes 3 years to get your bachelors and a 4th year is called honors). Only 15% of South African university students complete their program of study on-time.
The lecturers said that students come to their first-year classes unprepared to learn, not knowing how to take notes or summarize. The facilitator encouraged the lecturers to take a few minutes and teach the students how to take notes for their class. Alternatively, they could bring in a representative from Academic Resources to hold a workshop. However, I did pipe up at this point and said that a lot of students don’t know how to take notes their freshman year in the States either because taking notes for high school and university is a different skill set. The conversation took a slightly different turn because the facilitator then talked about how jarring it is for students to come from primary school into university where everything is so different. Textbooks transition from only having facts to having theories and arguments. She urged the lecturers to understand the difficulty of just this much of the transition for their students along with everything else their students are dealing with.
In the United States we talk about university students struggling because of their multiple commitments. Many students are juggling work, school, and family commitments. However, in South Africa 1/5 of all children live in orphan headed households. This means that an older sibling is taking care of the younger siblings because their parents have died. So, these students are not struggling to support their own children but rather their brothers and sisters. These children lack a support network from extended family, even if they have a family member who may intermittently check on them. They did not get support from a family structure to develop natural coping skills because they had to take on the responsibility of raising their siblings.
Listing these circumstances off and calling the classroom diverse seems to be a dramatic understatement. The lecturers still have the pressure to research and publish like professors back in the states in order to get promotions and tenure. In the workshop she encouraged the lecturers to set expectations for each term on the first day of class. Structure what they expected from students and what the consequences would be if those expectations were not met. She encouraged the lecturers to be explicit about this procedure and treat the students like adults who were entering into a contract. She also suggested that they could help students learn by sharing their vulnerabilities. If they admit, for example, that they are unsure on how to use a piece of technology then ask for help from the students. She used the example of a calculator and the students were excited to show her how to use it and she was getting that all important buy-in at the same time.
Honestly, I still find it overwhelming. But they are making progress one lecturer at a time.
“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.”
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.