Sunday, February 26, 2012

University of the Free State, Universiteit van die Vrystaat

The main and oldest building on campus.
I've been in Bloemfontein for about 6 weeks now and I am just finally starting to feel settled.  It's been a very intense 6 weeks adjusting to a new educational system, culture, and finding my footing in a completely new environment.

My experience working with international students at my university for the past two years has taught me a lot. I have watched foreign students come to a new culture to study and the ups and downs that are associated with that. It's been an interesting position being the international. The Free State does not have a similar organization like at App State, not because they don't want one, but because there are larger issues and priorities that need attention, like the integration of black and white students.

The Apartheid regime ended in the early 90's here but as we all know change takes time. The province of the Free State is a rural conservative area that has a culturally rich Afrikaans population. The integration process is naturally slower in this part of the country because of these factors, where as the larger cities like Capetown and Johannesburg are more progressive.

A few years back there was a racial incident at UFS and since then the university has been trying to promote the integration of black and white students. Up until two or three years ago dorms were separated by race.Now the school has slowly started mixing blacks, whites, and coloreds. The racism here is not immediately apparent but you can feel the tension and see it in the subtleties of daily interaction. That being said the University has implemented programs to help combat racism and expose students to more diversity.

Classes have been interesting to say the least. Some of the courses I take are over crowded and if you come late to class there is a real chance that you will not have a seat, and have to sit in the side aisles. The registration process, getting books, and figuring out when and where classes were was a bit of a mess. UFS is on it's way to having similar university standards as the states but they're a good 10-15 years behind.

I am learning a lot, but more because of my cultural experiences outside of the classroom.  Only being here six weeks I have a new found love and appreciation for my university back in North Carolina. The smaller class sizes, integration of technology in the classroom, and holistic approach to learning are what I realize I like about App State.

I am living on campus in a residence. I'm, fortunate to have an amazing roommate that has made the transition here so much more bearable. The residences here act as sororities and fraternities do in the states. The first year students have a lot of rules and regulations. They have to do front desk duty in the foyer of the hall and stand up when upperclassmen walk in. The school does not have as many extracurricular activities as in the States but their attention and energy into each residence compensates for that. They sell shirts, umbrellas, water bottles, and anything else you could think of with the name of the residence. It's been really interesting to watch from the sidelines. Now that I can finally feel settled I am focusing on classes and trying to find ways to get involved. I am out of my comfort zone which gives me a great chance to challenege myself with things I never thought I'd do.
My room, there is a partition of cupboards to the right
that separate me and my room mates sides.

1 comment:

  1. So Great Alissa! I loved what you said about getting out of your comfort zone and finally being that exchange student who is adjusting to life far from home. It looks like you're handling both like a ROCK STAR - Can't wait to read more. I'm so happy for you!