Tuesday, April 14, 2009

My experience at St Mary's

This course was a great one because of the books we have studied and the different conceptions of homelands that we have highlighted. But I think that one of my biggest accomplishments this semester in line with this Post-Colonial course, is my service learning. Actually, the desire to do service learning has been implanted in me by my fellow students last semester. When they would talk about their service learning in class, I would tell myself, ‘‘Ohh!! I really wish I had those kinds of experiences to tell.’’ When Doctor Ellis said that it would be possible this semester, I was very glad to seize the opportunity. As I was telling to one of my friends, I really think that this service-learning comforted my choice of being a teacher, especially because I was able to teach French to some students (I related that experience a few weeks ago in one of my blogs), and to interact with students. She was very happy to hear that because lately I had been talking about doing something else like using my language skills to be a translator or to work for an airplane company.
Moreover, I thought very interesting to see how the relationship between the students and I evolved. I worked with several classes: there was one that was particularly troublesome to tell you the truth, but very nice when you knew how to talk to them. Actually, those students were young teenagers, between 13 and 14 years old. Every time I would arrive at 3.PM, there would be someone punished outside. At the beginning, some of the students really did not really care about me. So I decided to take the initiative to approach them and to dialogue with them. It proved really fruitful because I noticed that when I would be around, they would try to behave. For instance, there was this young girl, she was very quick-tempered. When she would talk to someone, she would scream, or if one of the male students did not do what she asked, she would become infuriated and would beat him for no reason. One day, I reasoned with her and asked her why she was doing that, why she could not ask something without screaming or without beating someone. And then I joked a little bit with her and told her ‘‘ you know when you get older you will make boys flee. Boys will not want to be with you if you keep screaming and beating people.’’ She has calmed down since. Well every time I come she tries to behave because she remembers our little discussion.
I don’t really see a lot of common points between Gilbert and I in line with my service-learning, except maybe the love of a language which is not Italian, but English. She travelled to Italy among other things because she was in love with the language, and I travelled to the USA because I love English. The love of the English language led me to Baltimore, then Loyola, then St Mary’s, and allowed me to have access to the homelands of different young students. I was able to know more about their families, what they like and don’t like, their aspirations, their cultural references…Like several characters we have studied such as Jasmine, the young couple in Wendt’s novel, the missionaries in ‘‘Things Fall Apart’’, Dollarman in ‘‘Potiki,’’ I have been an outsider and even an invader, in the sense that I was observing and entering the homelands of young St Mary’s students as a non-American citizen, as a foreigner. However, at the end, I can say that the students made me part of their homelands. I integrated their world, the same way Jasmine, and by extension Mukherjee ended up integrating the American society. I can definitely say that St Mary is now part of the mental homeland I have been constructing in my head since I left my geographical homeland, Guadeloupe two years ago.

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