As I reflect back on my trip abroad there are a couple of things that I still think about often. To begin I honestly cannot get over how welcoming and eager the Tanzanian people were to show us their language and culture. At first, it was strange walking to school and having every other person say “Mambo” and “Habari” to me, but after a few days it grew on me! I looked forward to saying hello to Mike (the taxi driver the end of our road) and to anyone that would listen. Quite honestly it’s something that I miss now that I am in America; it seems most people are just in too much of a hurry to say hello.
Secondly, enjoyed learning about the culture and food of the Tanzanian people. I know that I may not have liked everything that I ate, but honestly everyone that cooked/prepared food for us always seemed proud of the meal they created. Maybe it’s just me, but the chefs at the Outpost always smiled when I asked them what they cooked … or when we came back for seconds!
Lastly, I also think about my students. My students definitely made a lasting impression on me because they loved us so much. Every time that they saw me their faces lit up and every time that I was gone and came back they asked me where I was and even though I was only with them for 4 weeks we still bonded and learned from each other. It was sad to tell them when my last day was because they all seemed gloomy after that! Overall, I think back on the generosity and kindness of the Tanzanian people; this is definitely a trip I will never forget!
The most difficult thing about being home is answering the question “How was your trip?” I can talk for hours about my trip yet still not have enough time or words to describe my experience. The real question people want answered is “what animals did you see?” I have come to the sad realization that as I have changed and evolved everyone else has remained the same. So I shorten my novels to small stories and recite my safari adventures with a few classroom experiences. I save my life changing experiences for the future book I will write.
Being in a Tanzanian classroom established my career choice, before Tanzania I had very little experience in a classroom which caused me to doubt my competence as a teacher. I had already changed majors numerous times due to my lack of confidence. The first few days were terrifying to me; I had no idea what I was doing and had no clue how I was going to manage my students. At some point I realized that the only thing I was afraid of was failing, failing as a teacher, student and daughter. I knew that if I continued with these negative connotations I would get no where, I decided that I was going to be the teacher I knew I was capable of being. Being afraid of what could possibly go wrong was absurd; it held me back so much already that I could no longer let it control my life.
During my car ride home, I had finally grasped the idea that I was not in Tanzania anymore. I cried all the way home, I was upset that I would no longer see my students and I would no longer feel the kindness of the people of Tanzania. Being in Tanzania I witnessed genuine kindness and love that I have never experienced any where else. People cared about one another; they took the time to greet you and seemed to have all the time in the world to get to know you. Here in America we have everything yet we lack a sense of kinship; in Tanzania they have far less yet are abundant in love, hope and kinship.
After visiting my 6th graders and telling them all about Tanzania and showing them all of the pictures, I knew this trip would definitely influence how I teach. They all had so many questions for me and I was able to apply what I taught them during my teacher assisting time to my trip. I think the trip is still sinking in. At this point it feels like I never went to Africa. It just seems to crazy to believe myself!
At first once I got back I felt out of place. Part of that might have been the jet lag, the other the culture shock of American accommodations. I also was quick to eat all of the food I had missed while in Africa. I didn’t realize I would miss the food here so much and how easy it is to get. I did feel that in Africa it wasn’t necessarily hard to get “American like” food, but they didn’t have it in all of the varieties they do here and often has an African twist. I didn’t realize I would miss American food so much and now I am realizing how often I give into weaknesses.
I don’t know if the trip will ever sink in. I think after I start talking about it more, especially in my future classroom I will understand the real significance in this trip. For me it is so hard to grasp and apply it to my own life. But is that the real goal of this trip? I don’t think it was necessarily a trip to change how each of us lives our lives, but to have a new perspective on how others in this world live. When I was talking about Tanzania with my 6th graders I often found the explanation for why they do things as: “it is part of their culture”. It is different, but its not necessarily wrong.
It was really hard to leave the students on the last day. During my half and final day at Prime we preformed the play that I had been working on with the 6th graders. At first I thought doing a play would be a fun and simple task with the students and then I realized that it was going to be a lot more work than I ever imagined. The 6th graders had never acted in a play or and they have never memorized lines so I knew it was going to be a challenge especially when I found out that we were going to perform the play in front of the entire school in a week. So I decided to do three plays, the Three Little Zebras, Cinderella, and Snow White. I made scripts for each of the plays, assigned parts, and coordinated where everyone was going to stand. The students were very excited and I worked to make it a great learning experience for them.
The day before the play I was very nervous about the performance because the students were just not where I wanted them to be for the performance being the next day but I just had the attitude that it will be whatever it will be. And honestly Wednesday came and they were absolutely fantastic. Honestly they memorized all of their lines, remembered all of the cues and where they were supposed to stand and the ones who were off stage stayed quiet. They made me so proud and they had so much fun. Honestly doing this performance with them brought me so close to the 6th graders so this made leaving them so much harder.
The question that many students asked me was are you going to be coming back. Honestly this questions is very hard for me to answer. I didn’t say yes and I didn’t say no. Honestly after I finish my year of college I will have the opportunity to get a job in a different state or different county. And honestly I don’t want to rule out any area. If I think after I graduate I want to go back and teach in Tanzania I will. I absolutely fell in love with the students and I would love to be able to see them again but it is hard to tell exactly where and when I will get a job opportunity, but I would like to think that I would be willing to be open to going anywhere.
During our trip we were able to visit Monduli Teachers college. This visit was really interesting because it was awesome to see how a college is in another country. We were given a tour of the college as soon as we got there and learned that the teachers actually can live on campus as well as the students. There was housing for the students divided into male and female dorms. We also learned that the landscape and jobs around the college is divided amount the students and they must do their jobs before they start classes during the day. The students spend about two years at this college to get their teaching degree at the secondary level.
After the tour we were able to meet and ask some of the teachers there a few questions. The people that we talked to were actually called tutors, and from what I understood they call professors tutors. The teachers we talked to do not live on the campus because there is currently no room but they would prefer to live on the campus because then they would not have to pay rent. Each of the teachers always wanted to be a teacher and never wanted to do anything else. They each want to continue their education if possible. The teachers we talked to teach physics, science and there was even a physical education teacher. I thought that was really neat because usually in America you can’t just major in physical education you need something else as well.
The best part of the trip was being able to talk one on one with the students. I talked to Peter during the time and I loved asking him questions about his college. He was 27 and he wanted to be doctor at first and then decided to be a teacher because his older siblings are also teachers. Peter is from the southern part of Tanzania so he must stay on campus and he rarely goes home because it is so far away. The amount that students have to pay is about 600,000 shillings which is about 300 dollars per year, which doesn’t not seem like a lot to me but to them it is. Peter was majoring in chemistry and physics, unlike students at GV the students there have to specialize in two areas not just one. Learning about the college was great and I really enjoyed gaining a different perspective on a college education.
As much as I love sleeping in my own bed again, I still wake up every morning disappointed to find that I am not in Tanzania anymore. The time that we were there flew by and before we all knew it the time had come to say our goodbyes. Although our visit there seemed brief, there is so much that I learned and will carry with me for the rest of my life. These things that I have learned will influence my life as a teacher, as well as my personal outlook on life and my future aspirations.
Being in a Tanzanian classroom taught me so much. As a teacher it is always important to be flexible. Things don’t always go the way you planned, and, as I learned, sometimes you may not have time to plan in advance. A lot of times I wouldn’t know what I was teaching until the day of. This forced me to think on my feet. I grew in my ability to make instructional decisions based on the needs and abilities of my students as I taught.
My time in the classroom also showed me an unconditional love that I had never felt before. My students were amazing and we built such strong relationships in such a short time. Yes, there were times when my students would be driving me crazy, but five minutes later I would have the biggest smile on my face because of them. Even students who were constantly in trouble and I felt like I was yelling at all the time would be hugging me as they left for lunch. I have never felt so loved in my life and I will carry their love with me forever.
Being back home and seeing all of the stuff we have is just crazy to me now. I feel a sense of guilt that I have so much while the people in Tanzania have so little. The thing that makes me feel even more guilty is the fact that myself and others complain so frequently about our lives. I never once heard any of the Tanzanians I met complain. They have so little, yet they are some of the happiest people I have ever met. The students at my school spent their free time playing with rocks and avocado pits and they were completely content. Kids here at home have so many gadgets and toys, but they are always wanting more. I feel like our society holds the belief that more possessions equal more happiness. However, that is not true and I believe we could learn a lot from the people of Tanzania.
I could go on and on about the things I have taken away from this amazing experience. My life will honestly never be the same. There is a whole world to explore and learn from and I am hoping that Tanzania is just the first of many adventures in my life.
The month spent in Tanzania was the greatest opportunity, adventure, and experience I have ever had. I not only learned about the Tanzanian culture and education system and people, I also learned a lot about myself. Being back home in the States has been bittersweet. I miss Tanzania so much, but it’s nice being back home with my family. The experiences, the culture, and the people are the three things that have left lasting impressions on my life.
I am so blessed to have been able to go on this study abroad trip. This opportunity has opened my eyes and mind to the world and to my future. I am fully content with choosing teaching as my future. I love working with children, and I love making a positive impact on their lives. Teaching in Tanzania was such an amazing experience, and I would love to teach in another country down the road. Not only did my students at Assumption learn a lot from me, I also learned a lot from them. This trip also made me realize the importance of traveling and seeing the amazing world God created. The Sergenti, Ngorogoro Crater, and Mount Kilimanjaro were just some of the beautiful creations I got to experience. I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to go on this awesome trip.
The culture is obviously very different than in the United States of America. The beliefs, food, and way of life are the three things that are most different. Coming back to the States it really hit my how fast pace it is here. People are constantly moving and stressing about doing things and being on time. In Tanzania, life seemed more relaxed and slower. There wasn’t nearly as much structure and routine there as there is here. People showed up late all the time, which was something I had to get used to. I had a hard time adjusting to the food when I went to Tanzania and when I came back to America, because I went from processed food, to fresh/pure food, back to processed food. I am just now getting back to normal.
The Tanzanian people are some of the hardest working, determined, kindest, most welcoming humans I have ever met. From the very first day, they all wanted to get to know us and wanted us to feel at home in Tanzania. These people showed me what it’s like to be thankful for the littlest things, and to be selfless and caring no matter what. The friendships I made with all the teachers and students at Assumption Primary School will forever be in my heart. I’ve never smiled and laughed so much in my life. The showed me unfailing love the whole time I was there. I’ve been emailing and Facebook messaging some of them, and I hope I continue to keep in contact with them. I miss all the people I met in Tanzania so very much. Hopefully I will be able to visit them again in the near future.