Well, this is a difficult question to answer because there has simply been so much. I think the biggest thing that I’ve learned on this study abroad is that you need just go with the flow because what you’ve planned for isn’t always what is going to happen. Whether it means we find some really cool stuff on our last day of safari, so we get back to the Outpost a few hours later than planned, or the lesson you planned on teaching that morning is going to have to wait until tomorrow because a different teacher decided to teach their lesson during the class period you were supposed to teach during, everything works itself out. You’ll get back to the Outpost with that much greater an experience, and you’ll just have to teach your lesson during a later period or the next day, but the best way to deal with everything is to just go with the flow. I think this is an important thing to learn, especially for a group of individuals who plan to be teachers someday. When in the classroom, things won’t always go as planned. You might not make it through a lesson you’re working on. You may not have as many students do as well on an exam as you had hoped for. There might be a surprise fire drill. Learning to roll with the punches is crucial, otherwise, you might have a bad time.
Another thing that I’ve learned is that living with a group of people for a month means you will get very comfortable with each other. I thought living in my fraternity house for a year meant getting comfortable with each other, but you could go days or weeks without seeing someone. Here, everyone sees everyone else every day. You learn everyone’s general behaviors and attitudes, so you can tell when someone is having an off day, and you can adjust yourself accordingly to cheer them up. It really leads to a great support system.
One last thing that I’ve learned is that a difference in educational systems doesn’t mean a difference in student’s ability to learn. In America, our educational system is based on the belief that students and teachers alike teach each other, and students aren’t just an empty vessel awaiting the teacher’s knowledge. In Tanzania, most classes are lecture based, and students are expected to learn through the lectures and notes the teachers provide. In the U.S., this view often is associated with a lower level of knowledge retention, but it works for students here. I never thought that I would promote that style of education system, but I would here because it works for the culture, and the American style doesn’t always work for the students here. All in all though, the students here are just as bright as American students.
This may just be a few points of what I’ve learned here, but I guarantee you I have learned so much more, and I am better off for the experience.