The past couple of months have been very interesting for me, and it’s daunting to know that the year is almost over! For me this means I am getting closer to obtaining my degree, but also that I have made it through home-sickness!
The most important aspect of my time here has been learning. Living and working in an environment that is driven by community engagement, has by far been the highlight of my stay. Through participating in weekly events such as “Science for Citizens” and “Open house”, to volunteering at the “Visitors Centre” at the Chesapeake Biological Laboratory, I have learnt the importance of actively involving the community in science based learning. These platforms allow researchers and graduate students to show the work they are doing to the community, while encouraging them to learn more about where they live and how they can better understand their impact to the ecosystem. While it may be true that such events are necessary, it also made me aware of something disturbing. In South Africa, past inequalities have translated to severe educational imbalances, meaning there is a truly tiny pool of citizens interested in Science in the first place. Consequently, we have no idea what the current state of the environment is at any given point because we lack the ability to communicate the relevance of our work. Much like our political evolution, science must follow suit. Perhaps it may be too late for senior citizens to learn fundamental science principles, but the generations that follow must be given platforms that expose them to science in action. The inception of such generational wealth, can only be realized when the education system is improved for both learners and teachers, and through active participation by scientists in these programs. For now, inventions, lab experiments and novel ideas must be made simple and applied in areas to assist citizens while educating them.
On a more positive note, I’ve now celebrated my first Halloween! I learnt that this was a day to be scared but also have fun! Subconsciously, this made a lot of sense. It’s perhaps similar to starting your studies, then finding out you’re going to have to leave home and live many kilometers away. At first, such experiences may seem daunting, but as we all know, taking a leap into the abyss has never been a bad thing! I have had much fun, met individuals that have taught me more about myself than they will ever know and participated in some “tourist-like” activities.
In closing, I suppose when we embrace the life that is, and accept the differences among us, we become better human beings. This has been one of those years for me. A journey of many miles, a couple of continents and many more cultures. What remains true is the comfort of knowing that unique character residing in each of us. A girl, who was born in the dusty, cloudy town of eMalahleni, chose to take the oyster and discover her Pearl.