ZSEIFS Alumni: In Their Own Words - South Africa
One month after their in-country experience, OIP followed up with the ZSEIFS South Africa alumni about their experience with the ZSEIFS, South Africa, and what they learned from it all.
(click on each question to see assorted responses.)
How has the ZSEIFS contributed to your understanding of the region? Did the ZSEIFS contribute to your views on interdisciplinary learning and teaching?
“I knew practically nothing about South Africa so the semester long assignments and readings were invaluable as an introduction into the region. It allowed an understanding of the political and socioeconomic structure and culture before the actual in-country experience. The variety of field trips, activities, speakers at the universities and in the communities really allowed for an immersion into the culture.”
“The ZSEIFS program gave me a much broader understanding of South Africa. The seminar was wonderful in bring together faculty from different backgrounds. I hope to continue these interdisciplinary collaborations now that we have returned to WKU.”
“I have a better understanding of the region with an interdisciplinary viewpoint. This is because most of our field experiences were carried out jointly with faculty from other areas of expertise and it was important to note how all these different disciplines can be used to provide different frameworks through which to view my own discipline.”
“For my discipline, there is a large disconnect between rhetoric and practice. All of the formal information before the in-country program discussed best practices, but when I visited with schools and professionals, it was a stark contrast between what they say is being done and what is actually being done. Being able to see multiple perspectives was important in my understanding of my discipline in the region.”
“My experience in-country underscored that human life is interdisciplinary. It’s our limited human brains that build silos.”
Has your participation in the ZSEIFS contributed to your understanding of the student study abroad experience? If yes, how?
“I haven’t been a student for a very long time and sometimes we forget how it feels to be in a strange land with people you don’t know, experiencing different cultural norms and often a different language. This program, where I was not in charge, a stranger in a new place with people I didn’t know, has taught me to be more patient and sensitive to the physical and mental toll traveling abroad can take on most but especially on a young student unfamiliar with any of it.”
“This has been one of the best outcomes from the trip. I believe it very important for us to create international opportunities for our students, especially in STEM fields with less program flexibility. I would like to find a university where students can do a semester abroad and stay on track for graduation.”
“The participation in ZSEIFS provided an authentic education abroad experience that cannot be achieved in any other way. The experiences in South Africa allowed faculty to identify areas that would meet the educational goals for a study abroad experience in order to enrich WKU students’ global perspective.”
“Yes, I was unfamiliar with the student study abroad program prior to ZSEIFS, but many of the other ZSEIFS participants had led study abroad programs and often discussed the programs they had done in relation to a program in South Africa. It also prompted me to think through how to make a potential student abroad program meaningful (what to include, not include, prepare in advance, etc.).”
Would you recommend the ZSEIFS to a colleague?
“Yes. It was a powerful experience. If WKU is going to have international reach, then both our faculty and our students need to have international experiences. ZSEIFS allows faculty to not only learn about the IYO host the country, but also to connect with faculty- both WKU faculty and faculty in the target country.”
“Yes. The experience prepares one to understand the opportunities to collaborate with other faculty in other countries in different ways, and specifically in research and in staff and student exchange programs.”
“Yes I would. I think it’s an invaluable experience.”
“Absolutely! But, I would tell them that preparation is key, especially if you plan for the trip to further your research agenda.”
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