Tuesday, 3 July 2012

S.O.S: Stuck Overseas Studying Jeffrey H

Age: 24

Where you study: Barbados

Major: Law

What’s the biggest culture shock or some of the biggest culture shocks between where you study and where you’re from? The people, the country, the school etc..:
I visited Barbados a few years before actually studying there so there was little to “shock” me.  The country still felt fairly orderly and time seemed to move at a leisurely pace. Back home things seem a bit chaotic on the roads and the day’s pace is somewhat frenetic.
I was already exposed to the unique Bajan dialect as well so I this time round I was prepared to listen keenly and have my ‘could you please slow down’ line at the tip of my tongue.

One noticeable experience this time round however was using the ZRs (mini-bus) for travel. The drivers have the same scant  regard for the road code as their equivalents in Jamaica. So too the conductors; there’s hardly ever an extra person who can’t fit into the vehicle. Of note as well is the fact that Jamaican music (whether dancehall or reggae, but mostly dancehall) is always the genre of choice on these buses. I once boarded a ZR and heard a series of Rihanna songs playing (instead of the good ole dancehall I was accustomed to). I was shocked and confused.

How well did you adjust to any change(s)?
As I indicated in my previous answer, there wasn’t much to get accustomed to and despite the differences the cultural make-up of the place wasn’t vastly different from my experience back home. One member of the current Cave Hill guild once told me that we came off the same slave ships so we’re all brothers and sisters. The way we go about life seems to confirm that belief.
In respect of the dialect, I can understand Bajan when spoken at a moderate pace. Anything beyond that results in an automatic state of smiling and nodding.

What is/are the best part(s) about studying where you do?
I did a degree at the Mona campus where there is precious little in terms of diversity of nationalities. My co-curricular involvement meant that I did know a sampling of individuals across the region but that can’t hold a candle to what Cave Hill has to offer. On any given day various accents will compete for your ear’s attention. It’s been fun trying to mimic each of them and learning the wonderful phrases used to describe food, aspects of man/woman relationships etc. 

I’ve long been a supporter of the regional integration movement. That, along with my general interest in politics, means that I gravitate towards such discussions when they occur.  What those encounters have confirmed is that we do share a common set of problems in the region and the students I expect will one day be in leadership positions seem to appreciate the folly in not moving things forward on the integration front. That gives me hope and hope is a good feeling.
Also, Cave Hill is known for having a cricket field at a prominent spot near the entrance to the campus. While at times the field seems like the best kept facility at the school (instead of say student facilities), it’s always nice seeing an Australian team playing a practice match in the morning and spending a late afternoon watching a some limited over cricket.

What is/are the worst part(s)?
My mom, whose magic in the kitchen is the certain cause of my teddy-bear like appearance, did not see it fit to abandon her life in Jamaica to come cook for me. Shocking, huh? So having to cook for myself and actually eat what was prepared is probably the ‘worst’ part. But truth be told, the cooking experience has more benefits than downsides. I’ve expanded my culinary repertoire and have a greater appreciation for that difficult task of grocery shopping.

How’s the food? (if not mentioned before):
Local food is okay. Macaroni pie is a must have. Breadfruit cou-cou is pretty tasty. Bakes can get an honorable mention.
One of the best features of first semester is that each island association has a week of activities to promote that country. Every association has a food day. I hardly ever missed one of those.

What do you miss most about home when you are abroad studying, if anything?:
Other than my mom’s home-cooked meals, that place of serenity and peace that is my bedroom.
I also missed coaching my high school quiz team. There’s an element of teaching, mentorship, challenge and reward that makes the activity worthwhile. That it involves giving back to my school in the same way those who coached me did, makes it all meaningful.

Would you migrate there at a later point in your life? Why or why not?:
Nah. I’ve never really contemplated a professional and/or public life outside of Jamaica. Circumstances may change and force me to sing a different tune but for the foreseeable future, Jamrock is where it’s at.

Any other interesting things you’d like to mention?
For a while I thought being in a new environment would force me to shed some of my introverted features. I’m not the type to initiate spontaneous conversations with new people except under familiar situations like class or agenda specific social groupings where I sort of know what to say and do. Precious little of that has changed. I did however challenge myself to “loosen-up” when I ran for a position on the guild (lost by four votes). One has to be willing to get into other people’s zones for a bit in such endeavors. That experience was awkward from start to finish. Students were kind enough to break their interesting conversations to hear me out for a few minutes but I always felt I was intruding. It was all worth the effort though. I felt a sense of accomplishment from challenging myself to something I always thought about doing but never mustered up the wherewithal to do.