Yes! It is finally time to leave the U.S. for a while. By tomorrow evening I will be in Yaounde…far…very far far away from freezing temperatures (Yay!). I am super excited!!!! The Gilman foundation office in Yaounde through the EducationUSA program has asked me to share my experiences at IWU and talk about American Universities. I cannot wait! The program helps Cameroonian students in the decision process for choosing an American school. I am signing off for now. My next post will be from Yaounde! double Yay!!
Program title – Cameroon: Social Pluralism and Development
Home to more than 200 ethnic groups and even more local languages and dialects, Cameroon faces the challenge of finding common ground for its national agenda. Famous for its folklore, art, and natural environment, Cameroonians are striving hard to preserve their cultural heritage and diversity in the face of globalization and the country’s socioeconomic needs. Against the backdrop of Cameroon’s rich ethnic pluralism, the program explores:
- Cameroonian history including Cameroon before colonization; German, French, and British colonization; the fight for independence; the impact that colonization has had on Cameroonian society today
- Development theories and approaches in the specific context of Cameroon
- Gender including the role and place of women and men in Cameroonian society; contemporary gender roles and existing gaps between modern and traditional roles
- Minorities including the “place” of the Anglophone in Cameroon and prejudices against Anglophones; culture and traditions of the Pygmies
- Art, tradition, and cultural expression including history and traditional ceremonies of the Bamilékés and traditional structures like the Chefferies
- Islam and traditional power in the Grand North including examining the interaction of traditional authorities, political power, and modernity
The program is based in Yaoundé, Cameroon’s political capital. Students have access to cultural activities, academic resources, and many of the international development organizations headquartered in the city.
The program also spends extensive time in other regions of Cameroon. A two-week stay in the northern town of Ngaoundéré and excursions to western and coastal Cameroon give students insight into how social change is manifested in different regions.
In-country resources and program partners typically include:
- University of Dschang
- Centre for Development and Research of Ngaoundéré
- University of Ngaoundéré
- Cercle Socio, anthropologique, histoire, et psycho of the University of Yaoundé I
- Unity Cooperative Society (UNICS), Microfinance Institution
- Peace Corps Cameroon
- OPED (Organization for Environment and Sustainable Development)
Here is the link to find out more information about studying abroad with the School of International Training SIT:
Here is the link for more information on the Gilman Scholarship I received:
The Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship Program is open to all U.S. citizen undergraduates, in good academic standing, who meet the criteria listed below:
- The applicant must be receiving a Federal Pell Grant or provide proof that he/she will be receiving a Pell Grant at the time of application or during the term of his/her study abroad.
- The applicant is applying to or has been accepted into a study abroad program eligible for credit by the student’s accredited institution of higher education in the U.S.
- The applicant is studying abroad for at least four weeks in one country. Programs going to more than one country are eligible if the student will be studying in one country for at least four consecutive weeks.
- The applicant is studying abroad in any country except Cuba or a country on the U.S. Department of State’s current Travel Warning list.
So why do I want to leave the U.S. for a whole semester? Why do I want to study abroad? Why do I want to go so far away?…Well I just do! Even before I entered Illinois Wesleyan University, study abroad was always promoted to me. I must admit that it all sounded very wonderful – studying in a different country with other students around the country, traveling around, experiencing a different culture, enjoying a change of environment, getting credit towards my degree while I am gone…etc…etc….I just decided to go for it! I did my research and chose the School of International Training known on campus as SIT. As an International Studies major with a focus on Development Studies and a minor in French, the comfort of a developed country in Europe or elsewhere around the world was out of the question. I had to challenge myself in a developing country. I chose Cameroon because of many reasons. With my Togolese background, it will be a chance to go back to Africa for a study abroad experience! There was no snow (Yay!) I will get to practice my French skills, and…well…it is a country in which I thought I could really enjoy myself while learning. It was also the home country of one of the students I used to tutor at the RefugeeOne youth center in Chicago. Once my decision was made, I sent in my application, got admission into the SIT program but was unable to get a passport. My study abroad process actually began in 2009, when I was not yet a U.S. citizen. I was unable to renew my Togolese passport because of political unrest during corrupted (oh yes! as always believe me!) Togolese presidential elections that affected policies and daily business at their embassy in Washington, DC. However, I never gave up. Instead of waiting for the Togolese government to get its act together, I got my SIT admission differed and began the process of becoming a U.S. citizen. As soon as I took oath in August, I got my U.S. passport. Now it was time to look for ways to afford my trip to Cameroon. I applied for the Gilman Scholarship and…I got it!! (Yay!). As part of the application process, I wrote a project proposal to share my Cameroonian experience through this blog. I promised to promote international education through the Gilman scholarship with my experience. This trip would not be possible without the assistance that I am receiving and I am really grateful for that. I am also glad that I did not give up as well. I am finally getting the chance to experience another culture outside the U.S. (oh yes far away from my cold Wesleyan campus!), and to make new friends. I am finally going back to Africa to study as a female college student (notice I keep repeating that…it’s just a big thing for me to be a female senior college student with an African background!). I must admit that some of my African friends, especially the ones who are still living in Africa, do not understand why I want to come back when I was lucky enough to get out of the bad and corrupted educational system they are stuck in. However, for me, going back to Africa to study abroad is a way to re-analyzed some parts of the educational system that I will be exposed to, from the point of view of an American female college student. For example, asking permission to visit a school during my independent study project time, sit in a class to observe, and see how different subjects are taught. Since I will be attending Dschang University, I can easily do this at the university level. I am living in my own little bubble and for the first time, I am given the chance to leave that bubble. Even though I am only going to Cameroon for a few months, I am really excited to share my experiences. I will be attending seminar style classes, classes at the market, classes at the university, learning about Cameroonian traditional customs, politics, historical palaces, dances, speaking in French (the whole trip!), doing an independent study project for a month, writing a 30 pages thesis paper on my project (dreading that part but I know I will enjoy whatever I choose to write about), traveling around in Yaounde and Douala, living with Cameroonian host families, and much….much more….This is just a great experience to close off my last semester as a member of the Illinois Wesleyan bubble (sad but true…IWU is a bubble). It begins when I land in Cameroon on January 25th, 2011.
As I begin to prepare for this journey, I have a lot on my mind. First, I have to complete a shopping list of everything I will need such as necessary hygiene products, books, and light clothing for the hot Cameroonian weather. I need to look more into my flight information just to be sure that I am on top of everything. I got my visa early so…there are not worries there. The one thing that I am doing to mentally and emotionally prepare myself, to live abroad for a whole semester, is getting more informed. I am learning more about Cameroonian music, culture, food, traditions, etiquette, and politics. I will continue to do this until I leave the U.S. I am also getting to know my traveling buddies through a Facebook group that we specifically created for ourselves. I have also been in touch with alums who have been done this same program. Their advices are very helpful.