Thursday, December 14, 2017

International Service "University"

An elderly man who lived in my vicinity always told me that education does not take place only in the classroom. Without an iota of doubt these words are indeed true. We learn the most valuable lessons of life from our interactions with fellow people and our immediate environment. Few months ago, I got the humbling opportunity to be a part of the International Service program. As a recent graduate, I expected to deliver or perhaps disseminate that which I have learned over the past years, conversely, I had rather enrolled in a “post graduate university of life”, hence the title International Service University. My learning experience over the past months has taught me a great deal, and I will break down my experiences into individual “schools” within the university.

Chilling at our pre-placement training
School of Pre-Placement Training; One major quality that was emphasised is the importance of team work, which is the cornerstone of every project. There is the African proverb that says, if you want to go fast, go alone, if you want to go far, go together. We were put into groups in every activity, and the underlying attribute that boosted our morale and confidence was the spirit of team work. International service had a way of shuffling us between projects. You can find yourself performing a specific task and the next moment you are finishing an entirely different task. In the hustle and bustle of this life, there are unexpected circumstances, as such one should be readily available to take on new tasks within a moment’s notice.

All of the volunteers at ICO
School of In-Country Orientation;  At ICO, we had to learn how to  adapt quickly, ICVs and UKVS  were made to lodge in a dormitory.  A setting like this taught us how to  adjust, alter and modify our environment to ensure that everyone  involved is comfortable to an acceptable degree and mentally rested to ensure a smooth transition to our tasks ahead. This attribute toughened my mindset, and improved my inter-personal relationships. I could interact more easily with others, and quickly detect the likes and dislikes of my fellow workers. We shared new slang such as “aaba” and “bless you”. When we got assigned permanent groups, I gained new skills and sharpened qualities I already possessed, which equipped me with the necessary resources to be successful in any task.

Our team and student volunteers at our float for BICAF
School of Project Partnership and Host homes: Quite to the disbelief of other people, particularly because I was an ICV, I had my fair share of difficulty getting accustomed to dishes that I had not eaten before. The different regions in Ghana, have different dishes and how they prepare certain foods vary by location. Foods like dawadawa jollof, TZ , yam, fufu, kulikuli, and brown wheat koko were all foreign to me. Needless to say, I got used to them, and even grew expectant for the next meal.  I roomed with a UKV, and truth be told, we both were very different from each other in terms of culture, and some behavioural traits. However, we understood the commonality of a great human experience and we shared a similar goal of giving back to society. Indeed, Ghanaians are hospitable and I had a feel of what foreigners experience having found myself in a foreign region. All you had to do in the community was to greet and be polite, and all will welcome you. Work site exposure gave me a hands-on experience of working in a professional setting and the realities that are associated when working in a field like this. Together, we all learned about human rights and were challenged to make impact wherever we found ourselves. At the end of the day I realised that experience is the best teacher, every individual irrespective of background has a lot to bring to the table. It is therefore imperative that you know the culture of the people you are working with, this way you will know what to expect, and in doing so your success will be guaranteed.

  The International Service University taught me a lot more than I had learned during my 4 years of university. I am humble to be a part of it and I look forward to future endeavours. 

Written by Derrick Amoah Yeboah 
Edited by Emma Caldwell and Finlay O'Fee 

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