In all honesty, I can’t really tell you what I was expecting in terms of my classes here in South Africa at the University of the Western Cape (UWC). A part of me was expecting the classes to be more challenging for me because I had to not only learn new material, but also grasp on to an entirely different teaching style. At the same time, another part of me wanted to believe the commonly accepted assumption that study abroad was going to easier than Georgetown, academically speaking. The one thing I knew for certain was that I was going to approach everything with an open mind to ensure that I got the most out of the experience.
The teaching styles of the professors here are comparable to a 200-person lecture in the ICC auditorium, except that students have a much bigger say in steering the class discussion. While the professors at UWC usually have PowerPoint slides to go along with their planned lecture, students often push back on certain concepts that send the class into a heated, but respectful, debate. This is especially common in the History and Political Studies classes. I sit back in awe just witnessing students discuss a topic they are so very passionate about. They speak with such conviction and the professors always welcome this sort of dialogue to take place.
My university here always has these things called tutorials every week which is pretty similar to a discussion section at Georgetown. The tutorial leader often spends about 15 minutes clarifying subject matters from the professor’s lectures, and then the remainder of the time is spent either preparing us for our next assignment or talking having a debate on current events. Another unique thing about the academic here is that your citation for every assignment you have to turn in has to be perfect, I’m talking every period and every comma has to be in the exact place that the professor wants it or you get marked down. This was something I found peculiar but also very helpful because I am used to always utilizing MLA format.
Something I am probably most grateful for, is how all of my discussion papers push me to think about Africa both critically and reflectively. I found this to be very difficult initially because I felt like an outsider who didn’t know much. I soon overcame this by talking with my professors who have been more than supportive, along with talking with my peers in the classroom who have never hesitated to give me more context on an issue. The amount of support I am receiving from all ends has helped me to genuinely learn at an institution that I now consider my second home.