10 Reasons to Travel to Namibia
Nearly two months have passed since I came home from an adventure of a lifetime and not one day goes by that I am not reminded of the learners at National Institute of Special Education (NISE) in some way or another. The stories of the people in Namibia last forever. From the unique culture and cuisine to the diverse needs of the students, each day is one of learning and possibilities.
One of my favorite parts of this study abroad experience was being able to administer aptitude tests to students, write reports on findings and collaborate with the principal and teachers to construct programs and accommodations best fit for the students. In the States, pre-service teachers are able to administer mock tests or observe actual exams being administered, but in Namibia the university students are able to implement anything within reason and good practice.
I have compiled a list of 10 reasons why students should consider studying abroad in Namibia! Although the courses offered through this program are Special Education, the wide range of classroom settings and experiences can meet the needs of any student at UW-Stevens Point who wishes for a future career in a school setting.
Here are 10 reasons to study abroad at the National Institute of Special Education in Namibia:
- You will never feel so loved! The first day of school I could not remember student’s name, was confused as to which way the bathroom was, and the students demonstrated their loved us and we had not even truly met them yet. For the learners to be so open to meeting new people and to give hugs, share their stories and to portray trust was amazing. Every morning the students greeted us with a “good morning miss,” big smiles, hugs, and many times asked questions about the prior night. Many of the learners do not leave the school grounds much so they lived vicariously through our adventures while traveling around Namibia and often wanted to see pictures of our families, friends, and the wildlife in Wisconsin.
- Teaching is in your hands! Sometimes teachers are in meetings or are absent so you are able to teach as little or much as you want. If you are a secondary science major you may choose to be in that course the entire trip, but if Braille sounds interesting the teachers are more than willing to have visitors in the class. One of the most rewarding aspects was when teachers did not leave notes to guide the class in their absence so we were able to teach on the spot. No teacher can ever be too prepared and should always have a few backup lessons in mind to teach at any given time.
- After learning in the classroom your entire life it is finally time to take everything you have learned in the classroom and apply the knowledge in real life. During one of my courses sophomore year my professor described a situation in which she reversed roles with a student that was acting out in class and the student’s behaviors disintegrated. I decided to try this strategy with a student I was working closely with and he loved the responsibilities I gave him. The best part was that he was able to co-teach with me and kept his classmate’s from acting out.
- Your perspective on life will be forever changed. While preparing for the upcoming school year some teachers at the school I am in showed concerns about not having certain textbooks yet and I could not help but think at least textbooks are coming. These books are also the newest edition and may even be found online as well, so student might not often open the textbooks. If a student that is blind at NISE wants to read a book often teachers will Braille the book if they have. After returning home I was unpacking and thought about all the clothes I had in my closet and what the money I could save from not buying anymore clothes for myself may buy the learners in Namibia. I left a big piece of my heart in Namibia and invite you to do so, too!
- During nights and weekends there is free time to explore! Often this meant spending afternoons with the group by the pool reflecting on our day and sharing our new knowledge. We brainstormed ideas to use with certain students, celebrated successes and a few birthdays! Also, where else can you go sky diving with the desert on your left and the ocean on your right? A safari, shopping in markets, bonfires, and touring the beautiful country were a few other favorite activities.
- Other important aspects some travelers fear are food and accommodations. The tent from the safari is the nicest tent I had ever seen and even has running water. Each stay is equipped with running water and wonderful food. The grocery stores are very comparable to those in the states too. In the states sometimes I am reluctant to try new food but while in Namibia trying the wild game was a fantastic decision. Rooms are shared with other college students on the trip and are not only safe but beautiful as well.
- After this trip new friends from the university and another continent are made! Four weeks of travel and teaching translates into a new family, especially because you will become extremely attached to the learners. Everyone has such interesting stories and past experiences to share and listening while contributing your own is quite remarkable. I remember being in the first airport on the journey there not knowing much about my fellow students and on the way back we were laughing and using shoulders as headrests.
- From people in the airports to waiters at restaurants, everyone was very welcoming! We were lucky to have people from the Peace Corps to ask specific questions to that may not have been appropriate to ask while at the school or with acquaintances. On the expeditions a wonderful tour guide gives knowledge about the destinations and advice when buying goods at the markets. Most importantly, the guide answers questions that may come up and becomes your host father while on the trip.
- Although we volunteered at one school at NISE there are two connecting schools for students with hearing impairments and cognitive impairments. After becoming part of one school community it is very interesting to venture to the other schools. The learners and teachers at those schools are also welcoming!
- This trip is truly what you make it. If you jump outside of your comfort zone and want to incorporate musicality into the math classroom I would strongly suggest going for it! The students at NISE truly want to learn and soak up all of the information you have to give, so if you give your all each day the students will gain so much from your presence.
I could go on for hours about Namibia and all the beautiful country and people have to offer, but I truly hope you consider traveling to the National Institute of Special Education because the learners are waiting for more of their “Americas” (friends from America) to come and learn with them!
Katie Morici, an elementary education and special education major, is blogging about her study abroad experience in Namibia, Africa.