Christiane Magnido is a resident director through SIT Study Abroad in Yaoundé, Cameroon. In this blog entry, she provides a valuable perspective on what it is like to study abroad in Africa and tips on how to succeed in another culture. Read on to learn about her experiences as a resident director!
What brought you to be a Resident Director?
Before SIT, I worked for the Peace Corps as a trainer and a coordinator. I trained Peace Corps volunteers in their initial 3-month training in French, culture and business skills. I worked in this capacity for four years before joining SIT Study Abroad in Cameroon.
What are some unique aspects of your city and country?
Cameroon is commonly referred to as “Africa in miniature.” It encapsulates the geographical, language, ethnic and religious diversity of the continent within a relatively small surface; it is the size of California. Yaoundé, the program base, is the political capital of the country and referred to as the city of seven hills. Cameroon is also bilingual with two national languages, English and French. The culture is very diverse with more than 250 ethnic groups and 3 colonial legacies. The program takes students to five out of the ten regions that makes the country. Students visit and learn in Kribi, a coastal town, Batoufam in the grass fields, and in Bamenda, an English speaking region located in a valley.
What is one thing most of your students may not know about you?
That I love singing, because they always see me working. They also may not know that their research projects and participation in class are very inspiring at a personal and professional level.
What are some of your favorite aspects of being a Resident Director?
Meeting young, curious and energetic students every semester. Making a difference in the lives of my students. Giving an opportunity to Cameroon students to join the program and learn about Cameroon with more depth and the cross cultural learning that occurs between them and students coming from the US.
What are some of the challenges of your job?
It is time consuming. When the program starts, I am on call and work every day until the end of the program, but I have a few weeks to breathe between the fall and spring semesters and in the summer.
What have you seen as the biggest challenge for incoming students?
The first two weeks of the program, students juggle between academic success and cultural integration, and they sometimes think they will not be successful. What they realize as the program unfolds is that their life out of the classroom is also an integrated part of their learning. We emphasize and give value to the learning that occurs outside the classroom as much as we do to lectures and readings.
What is your advice for students planning to attend your program, or to study abroad in your country?
The first secret is to be open minded, because what you expect to see might be different once you are in country. Try to have few or no expectations and let yourself be driven by what you learn and the people you meet. That way you are better prepared to embrace differences and a diversity of opinions and ways of life.
What is one thing you think students shouldn’t forget to pack for life in your country?
Their medicines and the required books, everything else they need they can find in country.
Why do you think is the most important take-away for education abroad students?
Rediscovering yourself because you learn about yourself in a way that cannot be done at home and in your comfort zone. You live in a new environment and it gives you a new understanding and appreciation of life, human relations, how you see the world and what impact or professional path you will like to follow.
To learn more about studying abroad through OSU, click here!