Thursday, September 18, 2014

A sigh of relief

There is no better feeling in the world than relief.  Anticipating an event for a long time, experiencing a halt in progress, and then finally seeing the event come to fruition provides great calm.  When school finally started at Legon last Monday, I breathed a huge sigh of relief.  I breathed another sigh of relief after I gave my first Rotary presentation the my host Club, the Rotary Club of Tema.  Here’s a description of my experience during the first week of studies in a developing country.

Hundreds of students listen in at the Graduate School orientation (I don't think this guy wanted to be in the photo!), September 12, 2014
My first class on Monday morning began at 8:00am.  Past scholars of Legon had warned me several times not to make my expectations too high.  They warned me that some professors don’t even show up to class during the first week.  I took their warnings seriously and tried to prepare myself as best I could.  So on Monday morning, after sitting under a tree with my classmates for an hour staring at every person who walked by and hoping he or she was my professor, I didn’t get too agitated.  After an hour and fifteen minutes I felt I had to do something. It occurred to me that after the strike and all the other chaos that had occurred, our professor may not even have been aware that there were students waiting for him to come teach class. So I went to one of the offices in the education building to ask where my professor’s office was located.   The office was locked, but an older gentleman came walking from a hallway.  I asked him if he knew where my professor’s office was, and to my surprise, he was my professor!  I introduced myself and informed him that there were at least five of us who were in the department waiting for instruction.  He was taken by surprise and said he wasn’t aware class was in session.  After some clarification he showed us where the classroom was, introduced himself and apologized for the confusion.  He said he would meet us for Tuesday’s class.  I thought to myself that was all anyone could ask for.  At that moment I had a great realization: as in America, in Africa, my success would depend heavily on my own wit, critical thinking, and determination.  In order to continue building a positive academic career, I was going to have to be proactive about my education.  

The next lecturer arrived on time and was very friendly.  He gave us an overview of the class and told us what to expect.  All in all that week, all five of our professors showed up and explained that the first week would be slow, but things would pick up by the following week.

By the end of the day I had met roughly 10 of my classmates, all of whom were teachers.  I found the class demographic interesting: all of my classmates were employed teachers except for myself, the majority of the class was married with at least one child, and all of the students were Ghanaians except for me.  I’m also the youngest person in the MA of Adult Ed. program this year.  There are moments when they break into Twi (the local language) and I remind them that I don’t know what they’re saying.  They always laugh or apologize and continue speaking in English.

Some of my classmates, September 12, 2014
My classmates and I agreed to disagree on the course schedule.  When I saw it for the first time, I couldn’t believe my eyes.  Monday through Friday included back to back classes from 8:00am-5:00pm and Wednesdays included a six hour seminar!  At one point I thought the instructors were trying to kill us (the students).  I was relieved again, however, when I found out that my classmates wanted to rearrange the schedule.  All of them said that they are full-time workers, that they would never be able to teach and make it to class, and that this crazy schedule had to go!  During class, when each professor asked the working students how they expected to teach and successfully complete such a rigorous masters program, everyone was silent.  However, by Tuesday after they had heard that I had asked one of the professors about switching around the timetable, they all jumped on the bandwagon and together, we drafted a schedule that was to everyone’s liking.  After multiple discussions and arrangements with our professors they approved, and we were able to shift the seminar to Thursdays and the special topic preparation to Fridays.  This worked out well since our professors said we would not be meeting every week for the preparation classes. 

Vida and Abu writing out the final agreed upon schedule for the class, September 12, 2014
In addition to beginning the school year, I gave my first Rotary presentation last Tuesday to my host Club, the Rotary Club of Tema.  I actually wasn’t as nervous as I thought I’d be.  I had been to a meeting in August and had met the club members, so the venue was familiar.  I discussed my friends and family back home, similarities and differences between Ghana and the US, and my future career goals in Adult Ed.  I got a few laughs out of the crowd and was able to breathe another sigh of relief after it was over.  Some Rotarians told me they really enjoyed the presentation.  A couple told me I was speaking too fast and they couldn’t understand what I was saying!  I apologized and told them next time I would slow down. 

Rotary Meeting in session at the Rotary Club of Tema.  If you look closely, you can see my presentation in the background, September 9, 2014
Me, presenting my Sponsor Club's (Daniel Island Rotary Club) banner to the Tema Club president, September 9, 2014
 I also found out that one of my professors is a Rotarian.  After telling him about my scholarship, he invited me to attend a Rotary meeting with him at the Rotary Club of Accra-Dzorwulu.  The club members were very nice and the Club president, Ms. Yvonne, invited me to the club’s walking fundraiser on Saturday morning.  I agreed to attend after-I found out it was at 6:00am in the morning!  I was able to wake up on Saturday morning, however, and attend the walk.  It was a good way to fellowship and meet Ghanaian Rotarians.  One of the Rotaractors invited me to an auction benefit the next week and told me I was welcome any time.  

Walking home from the library and capturing an amazing sunset over campus, September 8, 2014

When 5:00pm rolled around last Friday and I hopped on my bike to head home after class, I gave another sigh of relief (yes, I do a lot of sighing).  I had survived the first week of school in a foreign land.  I had already received assignments from one professor and could feel things falling into place.  This is not to say I’m not facing my share of challenges.  At one point this week I said to myself, I’m not in Charleston anymore, but with each day, I am learning the education system within the cultural system and finding my way.  Next week, I’ll discuss making a trip to the night market for breakfast and finding some American restaurants!

1 comment:

  1. Glad you're off to a god start after the strike and being assertive with your professors and classmates. Good to see you so involved with both Rotaract and your Rotary Club. Take care.