Saturday, December 16, 2017

Student T

One of our students, T, has been on seven overseas service-learning projects.  I was quite surprised, and was not aware of that until our management asked for student stories and a staff suggested her.  Prior to taking service-learning for credit, she had participated in community service projects teaching robotics design and programming workshops to primary and secondary school students. 

The first time she went to international service-learning, she went as a student in the summer of 2011.  In those days students were not required to take service-learning subjects.  We offered a service-learning subject as a pilot in summer 2011, in preparation for rolling out the formal program in 2012.  She took it as an elective subject and went with us to Cambodia.  One can say she was one of the first “guinea-pigs”. 

In the summer of 2013, she took a different SL subject as another elective and went with us to Rwanda.  In the same summer she went with us to Cambodia again, this time as an assistant, not a student taking the subject for credit.  Subsequently in 2014 she was asked again to assist in another two trips, to Rwanda and Cambodia again.  She has provided invaluable help to the teams, and the teachers, because of her experience, skills, enthusiasm, and maturity.   The teams have built solar electrical charging systems,  wired up many houses for electricity, built community learning centres, taught STEM workshops, …  She has grown tremendously together with the service-learning program itself. 

Twice more, she went to Cambodia as leaders of student-initiated teams.  The teams have built community learning centres, installed solar panels fo electricity, water collection systems, computer networks, and much more.   She has grown from a student, to student assistant, into a true leader.  

In the mean time, she has finished her bachelor’s degree, learned to do research, and completed her master of philosophy degree. She has learned to be more systematic, persevering, and creative.  She is due to start her doctor of philosophy research studies at a world-class university in Switzerland in January 2018.    While she has some time before her PhD studies starts, she is helping us in one of our research projects on the pedagogy of service-learning.  

This whole experience has to be considered in the context that she came to our university as a student in the "arts" stream (as opposed to the "science" stream) in secondary school.  Initially she struggled in learning programming.  According to her instructor, T was on the verge of failing at the beginning of the semester, but gradually learn to program like the best of students.  Now she is going to study for a doctorate in computer science.  I should also mention that the teacher who taught her programming is also her teacher for service-learning, and the teacher she has been assisting in subsequent projects.  A good teacher can do wonders for the students.  

She is so helpful for us that I hate to see her leave.  At the same time, I know she will learn a lot more away from here, so I am happy for her.  She will develop into a real public-minded scholar and that can only be good for herself, and for our community.  For our sake, I hope that she comes back to help our program.  But I suspect God may have bigger plans for her.  

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