With one month left in Southern Africa, the CGE students are beginning to feel the ticking of time. It is incredible to realize we have been away from home, away from our normal lives, away from families and friends, and on this exciting adventure for nearly three months. Being here, in southern Africa, in Namibia, in the CGE house has become our new normal. So the idea of leaving the lives we have built here is strange and a point of some anxiety. In the past week, one question has come up again and again: "What is still left that you would like to accomplish before you leave? What can you do to ensure these hopes become realities?"
This was asked at our weekly community meeting, in casual conversations over dinner, and even at our middle of the semester retreat to reconnect the students and staff. Our answers to this question encompass the wide range of desires we have in our study abroad experiences. We want to experience more cultural activities, like making an effort to attend events and exhibitions which will broaden our knowledge of Namibian society. This week included a trip to the National Art Museum, a night at a spoken word poetry show, and a fashion show presented by the University of Namibia. This was particularly interesting after the speaker we had in history class. As a CEO of large company working in Namibia, he framed every aspect of the country into a business. He referred to Africa as the next continent with the largest consumer potential. He seemed to be certain that consumerism was growing in Namibia, and that Jay-Z had more influence in buying habits than any politician could. He pointed out the fact that many luxury brands were establishing themselves in Africa, such as Gucci, Louis Vuitton, and Lamborghini. He seemed certain that the goal of the youth in Africa was to make money in order to purchase these luxury goods. We nodded our heads in agreement for the most part. We had seen the way young Namibians valued brand name clothing, sporting t-shirts with the “LV” symbol or the Polo pony. We noticed this even in the lower income communities. That’s why it was so refreshing to see some of the Namibians of our generation producing art and expressing themselves in the artistic process. Despite the growing consumerism, the youth of Africa were still taking the time to create and innovate on a personal level.
We also want to adventure around and explore the fun we can have here by hiking nearby Kaiser Wilhelm mountain, going paintballing, and spending our time exploring downtown. The city is ours for the next month, and we intend to take advantage of the three weeks we have in Windhoek (the longest stretch we've been at 'home' since the end of September).
The mid-semester reconnect was a great opportunity to think critically about how we want to spend our final month in Southern Africa, and to do this by remembering why we signed up for the program in the first place. We expressed the desire to go somewhere off the regular study-abroad path- none of us students were content to spend our one chance to study abroad in a society that was largely similar to ours (that meant no Australia, no United Kingdom, not the West). A semester in a Western country sounded too comfortable, too familiar, too similar to our own culture. With (for most of us) our one chance to study in a different place, we wanted to go somewhere off the beaten study away path. It was a chance to go somewhere we might not ever have the opportunity to go again. We spoke of wanting to challenge ourselves and be out of our comfort zones. And trust us, we live outside of our comfort zones, but have somehow grown comfortable with the unfamiliar. We remembered when everything about studying abroad was exciting, and shiny, and new. The first month in Windhoek everything was exciting and we were constantly having wonderful new experiences. And we still do, but the idea of having a new, challenging experience every day that we wouldn’t get at home is in and of itself something we got used to. Being at the retreat allowed us to rejuvenate the trust and communication between student and staff at the Centre for Global Education, and the enthusiasm we felt at the beginning of the program for studying the history, politics, religion, development, and environment of Southern Africa.
|Frederick and Freddy working together to arrive at their destination.|
|Ben and Amy reflecting on the semester.|
As we try to manage getting the most out of our final three weeks in Windhoek we are also engaging in a balancing act to also learn as much as we can within the classroom. Over the next few weeks our feet will be busy running us all over town trying to soak up as much of Windhoek as possible, while our minds will be constantly working to process, organize, and analyze the information we have accumulated over the semester from our classes and excursions. Of course, the beautiful part is we often do both at the same time. It is impossible to wander around Windhoek without connecting what we learn in the classroom to what we see on the streets. This will be essential as we begin our integrative projects. It will be a challenge to synthesize all the knowledge we’ve acquired in and outside the classroom. So as we head into the end of the semester and packing our bags, perhaps our blog readers will ask themselves what they still wish to accomplish in the next four and a half weeks. Many of us came to Namibia with personal goals we hoped to accomplish. Let us not evaluate whether or not we have met these goals, but strive to be content with our experience and save the reflection for when we return. The worry of coming up short has definitely crossed our minds, but we’ve undoubtedly learned a number of lessons here that we had never planned. Thanks, Windhoek. You’ve been great.
This blog is the work of our students. To learn more about Center for Global Education programming, visit us at www.centerforglobaleducation.org.