By Alex Bernier
The Transformative Praxis: Malawi Campus is big, cleaned daily, and secluded from the community members and their impoverished way of life. Exposure to a struggling life is not what I’m experiencing besides being with the children on our Campus. My focus here is to build curriculum with the other education students and to work on lesson plans for the after school program. There is little chance to be working with the community members like the other projects going on, such as the compost pit or chicken co-op projects. As a result, I believe I am stuck in the first stage of culture shock as stated by Pederson (1995): the honeymoon stage. This stage is known as having a sense of intrigue, excitement and overall euphoria. As much as I may be comfortable in this stage, this experience and opportunity to be in Malawi and working with these people is pointless for the community and myself if I don’t proceed to the next stage: the disintegration stage. It might not be a bad thing that I am going through culture shock slowly, but I do find that I am second guessing myself and sad about not feeling bad for the Malawians as much as I know I would be if I was exposed more to their living situations. Another concern I have is going through reverse culture shock when I return home and go back to Bishop’s University in the fall.
However, I am learning cultural difference as some interactions are made on campus, like language, behavioral, food, and Malawian ways of cleaning. Tomorrow, the Education students and I are going to the Chilanga School for the Blind and the Chilanga Sighted School. I imagine these will be big class sizes and strict teachers but I am unsure what else to expect. I just hope for a meaningful experience. I have to push myself out of my comfort zone in general and communicate with the community to get the reality check that I need.
Pederson, P. (1995). The five Stages of culture shock: critical incidents around the world. Westport, C.T: Greenwood Press.
About the Blog
Since 2013, students participating in Transformative Praxis: Malawi have been writing blog posts reflecting on their experiences of participating in action research in Malawi. The original blog with the full archive can be found here