Nancy Violet Whiting
First of all, I want to say that I have fallen in love with Johannesburg, which is strange because I am not one for big cities: I think Trondheim is too big and too busy. Johannesburg is truly alive (until 8 pm, at least), the sun wakes me up at 6 am and I’m not even mad about it. I am even used to the sound of the cars on the street and the taxi-buses incessant honking to let everyone on the sidewalk know that they need to jump on if they’re coming with.
The culture here is so welcoming, and people are friendly. A lot of things also make me feel quite at home because it reminds me living in England and my English relatives; for example, the continuous asking of “how are you?” “how are you doing?”, and the responses “good, good”, “I’m fine, and you?”. It is funny how some things like this can be so familiar, yet other social niceties and cues are very foreign. I also keep catching myself being too Norwegian and reserved.
I have found my time in South Africa very interesting, informational, giving, and challenging. It has been a rich learning experience, and a completely different way of learning. At DFL the focus is on embodied learning and embodied research: using your experiences to feed into your academic life. There is a sense of focus on the whole: nothing is separate, everything is connected and comes from within. With this, you then connect the academic sources, techniques, and reflexivity. I think I have been lucky in having had a more theoretical approach to practice as research back in Norway before coming here though, so I can make those connections and have it all make sense in my head. I am thankful for my lecturers Tshego and Caryn’s understanding, compassion and patience, yet pushing and challenging me. I love how welcoming and helpful all the staff at DFL are.
Since arriving here, I feel like I have been completely thrown into this space, the way it operates, and what it expects of me. Which, to be honest, has been challenging and frustrating at times, but is a good learning experience. This place expects a high level of ability to improvise. Some tasks are still a bit out there for me and I find it hard to find the words for these embodied experiences, but I am getting there.
What I expected and got confirmed is the value of travelling somewhere for other reasons than travel and holiday, in my case studying. Having studied abroad before, I already knew this, but what has become apparent is the added value of doing so on a different continent with a completely different history, context, and view of higher education. In a way I feel like higher education has become so normal and taken for granted in Norway, here higher education is still a huge privilege and something those given the chance do not take for granted for a second.
I am looking forward to the remaining time I have here and creating connections for life.