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.

Staff seminar 6 January 2015: Spatial Temporal Analysis on Istanbul Urban Expansion Using NASA MODIS EVI Images

Analysis on Istanbul Urban Expansion by Using MODIS_001
After giving an introductory lecture focusing on spatial methods to analyse urbanization using remote sensing data it was finally time to present initial findings of the changing urban landscape in Istanbul from 2000 to 2013. The analysis was conducted together with my colleague and graduate student Mr. Eigo TATEISHI and make use of a dataset called MOD13QI (MODIS EVI) which is available free of charge from NASA. However, before entering the analysis I would like to provide a few recent facts about the urbanization in Istanbul during recent years. This process is highly controversial and has stirred political turbulence providing news widely spread around the globe. Rapid urban land development is in many settings, not only in an emerging market context, controversial. Making land available for private or public development can cause environmental problems for example in the case of Istanbul turning the forest area surrounding the city to urban and built up areas or social and economic problems when suburban areas used by city dwellers with less financial capacity are converted into more expensive housing for the city´s population that can afford higher rents. In recent years the city planning strategy has been focused on large scale development projects called mega projects (see below images from Turkish media).

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To mention a few among many projects; the third international airport located on the European side of the city to ease the congested Atatürk Airport, on the European side of Istanbul and Sabiha Gökçen International on the Asian side, a channel for sea freight connecting the Black Sea with the Sea of Marmara to ease the congested Bosphorus, subway tunnel to connect the Asian and European sides of the city, public housing and real estate projects catering for the city´s growing middle class´s demand for high quality and more luxurious housing in suburban locations. The spatial/temporal analysis of the changing land use patterns in Istanbul clearly find patterns were land used for forest and other vegetation has been converted into urban and built up area during last 13 years. The analysis is conducted using a resolution of 250m indicating a relationship between areas with observed large scale and infrastructure (see below image). The analysis based on satellite images conducted by me with very limited knowledge about the urban development in Istanbul clearly needed the contextual knowledge provided by my colleagues here. Once the results of the initial analysis were presented comments and suggestions were delivered. The main comments relate to find accurate measures on the extent of the urbanization in order to compare different districts in the city and the relationship between urban expansion and the present infrastructure development. There is definitely scope to develop the initial spatial analysis into an article which hopefully can be co-authored by colleagues from my host university. This would be a great outcome of my two weeks Erasmus scholarship and a great start for in-depth collaboration with Bahçeşehir University. The next steps of my stay here will be devoted to providing lectures on the GIS methods used for remote sensing analysis and to refine and expand my present analysis on Istanbul. A first brief with initial results must be ready for distribution to Turkish media before I leave so there is plenty of work to be done.

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Erasmus teaching exchange in Istanbul December 2014 to January 2015

 On the way to the first day at workFerry from Kadiköy the Asian side of Istanbul to Besiktas the European side of Istanbul

I visited Istanbul during the summer 2014 and found the city very interesting from an urban planning perspective in particular in reference to its booming real estate sector. During my holidaystay I got so curious about the city and could not resist to contact a few local economists to get answers on my questions. The booming Turkish economy and the rapid urbanization of Istanbul was the closest I could come to the patterns found East Asian context which I am used to study. I was lucky to meet with a team of economists from the Faculty of Economics and Administrative Sciences at Bahçeşehir University at the main campus in Beşiktaş. We found common interests in emerging markets and the geographical and financial expansions of large cities and agreed on trying to establish an academic relationship in order to analyze the rapid expansion of Istanbul using remote sensing data.

Upon my return to Malmö I got help from Åse Falk (US) to establish and exchange agreement between our departments and from Maria English at the International Office to apply for an Erasmus Exchange. I must say that I am impressed by the fast actions taken and support given by the administration to put the outome of my summer meeting in to action. I was awarded a 2 weeks stay with the support of Erasmus +. Such a great outcome from meeting a gang of researchers during the summer. So after spending a few lazy days at home for Christmas I arrived to Istanbul on the 26 December to give my first lecture on 29 December and meet & learn from my new colleagues at Bahçeşehir University. My first lecture gave an introduction to how to use remote sensing in a social science setting mainly focusing on how to measure economic change based on a recent article which I have co-authored with Ola Hall at Lund University and Souknilah Keola at IDE-Jetro in Tokyo, Japan (article and be found here: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0305750X14002551). The lecture was attended by staff members and graduate students and gave me excellent comments on how to proceed with my interest in measure and analyze the rapid urbanization of Istanbul.
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PhD dissertation

Yesterday I attended a PhD dissertation at the academy of science. Lilit Zakaryan was part of the committee. As usual in the room there is a long desk, two men sitting behind it. The first 2 rows of the public was full of men, all in costume, all of them had a microphone. No one had a computer in this lecture room! There was an introductory talk in Armenian (all the dissertation was in Armenian), then the student presented his thesis orally (no slides, or projector, no other media, is it the same in Sweden in the humanistic faculties?)

PhD dissertation
PhD dissertation

The topic of the thesis was gender perception of life under communism in ex-soviet union (or something similar). After the student’s presentation, the people in the committee gave their feedback. Some of the opinion were formal, in the sense that the committee member went to the stage to read his/her feedback, some other opinion are given from the public. The student responded to the comments. In total there are 13 people in the committee, and Lilit is the only woman. It seems that the feedbacks are positive, there has been some comments about the methodology; since the history in this thesis is recent, the method seem to be not suitable (according to what Lilit says).

When everyone in the committee had finished to comment on the thesis, we went out from the lecture room, while the committee remained and voted the thesis.  We went back after 10 minutes and one person communicated the response: 13 out of 13 members in the committee were positive to the thesis, the student was approved. However, the thesis was not yet published, so the student has to modify the thesis according to the comments he received and then it can be published.

After that I went home. The city is preparing for Christmas!

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Christmas decoration