Mahala. Day 5-6 at NMMU South Africa

Mahala (south african slang, derived from Zulu, meaning free(of charge))

It is nice to wake up to birds´ singing. Postgraduate Village, where I live, is located on The NMMU South Campus, which was declared a private nature reserve in 1983. NMMU is the only university in South Africa situated on a nature reserve. Here you can spot animals like grysbok, zebra, springbuck, honey badgers and others. 

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Port Elisabeth, also known as The friendly city, is also called The windy city. Today I experienced for the first time since arriving, how windy it actually can be here. It was nice however to take a walk through the campus before today´s meetings, accompanied by monkeys and badgers.

Professor George de Lange, the Director of the Centre for Academic Engagement and Collaboration at NMMU, whom I had my first meeting with, presented his areas of expertise include university-industry engagement, work integrated learning and quality assurance. He has published in the fields of university engagement and work integrated learning. George explained what lies behind the successful institutionalisation of engagement at NMMU. A few examples of enabling factors are that engagement is recognised as an important core function that is integrated into the other core functions of the university; inclusion of engagement in the mission statement and strategic plan of the NMMU, the ability of the institution to combine discipline based knowledge, technology and innovation to respond to external problems, universities campuses being located at multiple sites and being user friendly,  policies that recognise the existence and value of multiple types and forms of knowledge as well as policies that acknowledge the value of multiple modes/sites of knowledge production.

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This interesting and informative visit was followed by a meeting with professor Cheryl Foxcroft, executive dean at Higher Education Access and Development Services. Especially interesting was her presentation about her research regarding ethical issues in psychological testing in Africa. The core ethical consideration of how to best cater for cultural and linguistic diversity so as to be sensitive to test-takers’ cultural backgrounds and values during the testing process.  

One of my last and most interesting meetings with NMMUs staff was with Marina de Jager, senior staff member at Student Counselling, who shared her experiences of The Peer Help Programme with me.  It was really inspiring to hear about the programme. The aspects of their peer helping training are: core training in communication and helping skills, follow-up training in other („generic‟) peer helping skills (portfolio management, project management and diversity management) and follow-up training in programme specific skills (peer wellness mentoring, career guidance, academic / learning skills). A few years ago Marina helped and guided Gothenburg University in the development of the university´s mentor programme. I really wish we can develop some cooperation with Marina and her colleagues in the future. 

After this intensive week of touring the different campuses at NMMU and sitting in on lots of meetings, it was time to round off this interesting and little different work week at NMMU with my wonderful colleagues at the International Office. I am really grateful for their incredible hospitality and generosity in every way. I hope they will visit us at Malmö University soon.

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The final day of my visit to NMMU I was invited to join a wonderful tour to the city and its surroundings. On our way through The Cape Recife Nature Reserve I could observe zebras, grysboks and a springbuck. I really liked the city and especially the friendly people here. Now I am on my way to Cape Town. Let´s see if its people are as friendly as in PE. 😉

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Have a nice day wherever you are! 🙂

Ubuntu “I am because we are”. Day 4 at NMMU South Africa

Today I visited and spent the whole morning at the Alumni Relations department on North Campus. I received a very warm welcome from Paul Geswint and his nice team. Paul gave an interesting presentation on the alumni organisation, interest groups development and support, development of the alumni contribution opportunities, alumni recognition programmes and more. Santhoshini Petersen, Alumni Relations Coordinator, explained how the department uses different types of information system in their communication and relation building.

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Later I met Baakier Abrahams, Alumni Relations project officer, who shared his experience regarding relationships with current students – university´s future alumni, and explained how the Alumni Dept uses their university shop as a strategic brand development tool. A visit to the university shop with Baakier was another nice experience. 

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After the lovely talks with Alumni team I had interesting meeting with Pieter Swart, Director of Marketing and Corporate Relations, who took me on a cultural city tour while explaining his department´s role at NMMU. I found this alternative type of meeting extremely interesting. Among others we visited  The Nelson Mandela Metropolitan Art Museum, where Pieter´s friend Emma gave me a private tour. Lovely!  Route 67 and a visit to the townships was another fascinating experience.  

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This exciting day was rounded off nicely with a delicious dinner and interesting discussions with Tohiera Moodien, manager in International student admin. Pleased 🙂

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Time to go to sleep. Another early morning awaits me.

Good night wherever you are! 🙂 

Molo! Day 3 at NMMU South Africa

Molo! (means Hello in Xhosa, one of eleven official languages in South Africa)

People people people… New encouters, new experiences, new insights. Exciting stories.

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Today I spent the whole morning at The Student Counselling, Career and Development Centre (SCCDC), where I met Dr Maud Ntanjana, Dr Hanna von Lingen, Kameshnee Ramasamy, Ruth Connely and others. I had the prevelige of presenting Malmö University´s Study and Career Centre for a this courios and interested group of counsellors att NMMU. We had very interesting discussions about the significance of guidance and counselling of students of all ages, and how important role counsellors play in schools, universities and community as a whole. We also exchanged our views on the imortance of a research-led counselling. You would notice that you met with the genuine counsellors since it was my turn to answers all the (open) questions. Pure pleasure.

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After our morning meetings Maud, the manager of SCCDC, drove me to the university’s Missionvale Campus located on the outskirts of Port Elisabeth´s suburban centre, where I spent the whole afternoon with Lungsi Ntlokwana and her staff. Siya, future counselling psychologist, who is doing her internship at Counselling Centre on Missionvale Campus took me on a nice campus tour. It was amazing to see that this modern Capus was located just next to Missionvale townships, that are still made up largely of shacks. Location, location, location. 

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Later I met with a group of high schools pupils from disadvantaged schools who were to attend a career workshop. These pupils spent about 3 hours at Student Counselling Centre on Missionvale Campus in career programme which helps them identify their personality, interests and values and guides them towards a career decision, and provides them with career information. What a wonderful initiative! 

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After another day full of impressions I had to go for a evening run on the beach. I am exhausted and yet so pleased.

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Good night wherever you are! 🙂 

Get off your umtarara. Day 2 at NMMU South Africa

Get off your umtarara and make things happen! – Motto of the day.

Another day at NMMU filled with interesting meetings with committed people and stories about students making a difference, and the staff making it happen.

This morning I spent some time at the Study Abroad Office with Mona Lisa Ndwayana and Jade Mentor who told me about their hard work with orientation program for international students.

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Later I attended First Year Architecture student workshop presented by Gino Frenchman, Academic Development Professional of the Centre for Teaching, Learning and Media. Afterwards we had some interesting discussions about the importance of first year experience for students.

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So exciting!  But no room for reflection yet; I had to rush to my next meeting, this time with Dr Jennifer Winstead, at the Higher Education Access and Development Services. She proudly presented her work with The Co-curricular Record, now official document that recognizes a student’s out of classroom experiences.The co-curricular activities and recognition is verified by the relevant departments and the document can be used when applying for jobs and further studies.

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My next meeting was with Kim Elliot, Senior Manager in Leadership Training and Development in Students Governance. I was really blown away with Kim´s story and her passion for helping students. Among other things Kim is one of the facilitators behind Beyond the Classroom (BtC) programme BtC which started in 2009 as a voluntary leadership programme for students at NMMU. ”Get off your umtarara” – an amazing story.

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I must admit I had a hard time leaving Kim but I had to attend another meeting this late afternoon. This time with Dave Jenkings, Director of Centre for Access Assessment and research. Although I was extremely tired, I was not disappointed, and it was thanks to Dave’s warm reception and his interesting presentation.

No energy left for sightseeing today either, unfortunately, but it was worth it! I’m sure I will sleep well tonight. Good night from Port Elisabeth wherever you are!

Ubuntu. Day 1 at NMMU South Africa

Diversity, Excellence, Ubuntu, Intergity, Respect for the natural environment, Taking responsibility – the values of Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University. I feel like I am home.

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I am sitting and relaxing in my apartment in the Postgraduate Village in Port Elizabeth after my first, incredibly exciting day at Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University. I’m tired and it’s late but nevertheless I will try to collect my thoughts after all the exciting meetings today. I am overwhelmed by the fantastic reception I received from the colleagues at NMMU. My day began with my guide for the day, wonderful Nonto, picking me up at my guest house and taking me to the International office where I had several meetings with their staff, including Kate Mey, Manager of International Partnerships and Tohiera Moodien Snr Manager in the International Student Admin. They told me about the important work they do in terms of the reception of international students and staff. It was inspiring to see how dedicated they are to helping and encouraging  students with different cultural backgrounds to engage with outside community . We discussed our universities` visions and our way of working, and came to the conclusion that despite the geographical and cultural distance we work towards very similar goals and face similar challenges. For those who is interested in more details I will gladly tell more about the discussions when I am back home in Malmö in a couple of weeks.

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After these interesting talks I got introduced to International Office Staff by Janine Wagenaar, who, by the way, is responsible for arranging my whole visit here and she is doing a wonderful job. 

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Then the morning meetings followed by lunch talks with Kate about living in South Africa and a Campus Tour with Nonto. I had the privilege to see the vice chancellor office in the Main University Building and the amazing view over Port Elisabeth. 

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Then I spent the whole afternoon with Johan van Rensburg, Study Abroad Outgoing and Short Programmes Assistant and Claire Dullisear, Short Programmes Coordinator. They told me about the amazing projects they work with. You can find more info about their projects here: http://international.nmmu.ac.za/Short-Programmes-International-Summer-Programmes/Community-Service-Learning

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Truly satisfied I rounded up the workday by visiting a supermarket together with Nonto, who helped me pick up typical South African groceries and delicacies. On top of everything I saw a couple of monkeys on my way back to my apartment and was advised to keep my food locked away since the monkeys would steel it otherwise. 🙂

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That would be all for tonight. Good night everybody, wherever you are.