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Teaching Old Dogs New Tricks

You quickly realize that studying abroad is so much more than simply a vacation for school credit. I’ll be the first person to agree that any opportunity to travel is lucrative and exciting, but to study abroad means that you are constantly challenged intellectually and noting observations without hesitation throughout your travels; the purpose of studying abroad is not to relax but to insert yourself into an unfamiliar environment and observe. I have participated in three of these programs, and each one has had a defining moment. I think that today’s experiences will culminate in one of those enduring memories for this group.

We begin the day with breakfast as usual and find our ever-dependable bus driver Charles awaiting our crew for some early morning travels. It is a cool 61 degrees in Arusha, and the morning mist is still present. Dr. Koti, with a bundle of two volleyballs and one soccer ball in his hand, beckons us to join him on the bus. I was unknowingly ill-prepared for what was to come wearing only a short-sleeved “I Heart UNA” t shirt, shorts, and Chacos. We knew that our itinerary listed “Community Event–Ng’iresi High School” for today, but none of us had any clue as to what we would be doing besides presenting the token of a few sporting goods to an African school. Nonetheless, at this point we all just roll along with whatever happens each day (hakuna matata, right?).

Charles begins our drive and ascends up a typical Tanzanian “road” drenched with the morning mountain mist and filled with divots and trenches. About halfway up the mountain, the doors open– “Twende! Let’s go!” Slowly we exit the safety of Charles’s bus and onto the soaked silty soil. Dr. Koti informs us that the school is just a kilometer up the mountain. The only thing that kept us from laughing at each other slipping and sliding (and occasionally falling) up the treacherous climb was our own struggles to get to the school looking somewhat presentable. That single kilometer felt like 10, but we all made it. (We later found out that some of the children and faculty walk more than 6 kilometers up the same mountain to get to school each day.)

Robby and Jesse in ClassroomWe are greeted by the headmaster of Ng’iresi School, Mr. Godfred Moses, who is extremely welcoming. Fellow grad student Jesse Lane and I are told to follow Mr. Swai to a classroom where we are expected to teach his students about America and answer his students’ questions. Not much time to prepare, and I suddenly question my capability to represent my entire country. We walk into a classroom of about 50 students, both boys and girls, of the age of 14. We are greeted so warmly that my nerves are gently melted away by a room full of wide smiles and inquisitive eyes. Jesse and I talk about everything from our upbringing to the geography of the US to government of Tanzania to singing “Hey Jude” and “Sweet Home Alabama.” We all have a great time, and what a fantastic feeling to be a guest in their classroom sharing our cultures.

After our classroom talk, the entire school gathered on the front lawn where Mr. Moses introduced Dr. Koti who introduced our group to the school and presented the soccer and volleyballs to the headmaster. Cheers erupted from the students, and we couldn’t leave until we ensured that the volleyball was suitable for play. Let’s just say, Dr. Fleming has adequate number of action shots of the ensuing game to embarrass us students if we ever get on his bad side.

Kwaheri!Dr. Koti and Ng'iresi School

Robby Thompson

Robby Thompson received his diploma in the morning and jumped on a plane in the afternoon bound for Tanzania. He received his Bachelor’s in Business Geography and will begin his Masters of Science in Geospatial Science at UNA this summer. Robby studied in Schmalkalden, Germany in 2012 with the Magellan program, then Paris over Spring Break with UNA Study Abroad. Follow his next Study Abroad adventure, will it be his best?

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One Response to “Teaching Old Dogs New Tricks”

  1. I found just what I was needed, and it was ennietainrtg!

    Posted by Geminis | February 17, 2016, 10:26 pm

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