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Rashida Symonds’ BlogTanzania

Faculty Field School in Tanzania – Connecting with Culture and Purpose

Travelling to Tanzania in May 2019 was a life changing experience. Through travel, diverse experiences, and meeting new people, vast personal and professional growth occurred within my life. The journey cultivated within me an increased sense of hopefulness and appreciation of the human experience.

I travelled to Tanzania as part of the “Tanzania Field School”. It was extremely rewarding to converse, share experiences and best practices with fellow educators in Tanzania. I teach English, History, Geography and African Canadian studies. Through my teaching practice I’ve learned that to be a great teacher you must also have a love for learning and the willingness to be a great student. Through travel I have had an excellent opportunity to open myself up to learning and to expanding my world view. Having the opportunity to travel to two African countries in the past year has completely changed my life. I was not the same person upon returning from the African continent. Seeing how other people live life, the beautiful opportunities and daunting obstacles other people face around the world allowed me to see not only how fortunate I am, but how fortunate, determined, creative, and strong people are all over the world.

As a person of African ancestry, the opportunity to experience African cultures firsthand; the language, dances, food, belief systems, transcended everything I’d been taught and everything I thought I knew about aspects of my own ancestry.  There is an ornate beauty in each country I visited and in the people I met there. Reconnecting to the continent is a unique experience for every member of the African Diaspora. Some find a deeper connection to history, culture, and ancestry; all find a deeper connection to self. Personally, I connected with all those things. 

Being a person of Indigenous and African ancestry, living in Canada has shaped the way I see myself, my racial and cultural identity. There is something wonderfully resilient about the way my community has built connections, traditions, love and culture piece by piece; creating warmth amongst ourselves within a society where we find ourselves often on the margins.

In Tanzania, an incredible sense of healing occurred around the missing pieces of my own racial identity. I was able to truly connect with people and to see various parts of the country. I met people from diverse walks of life, religions, cultures, and means. I was able to experience the land in a very intimate way, learning about animals and plants and having the rain and earth touch my skin.

 I have a theory about returning home, to a place of my ancestors. Being embraced and immersed in another culture helped me view myself from an oblique lens. In Tanzania I was always encouraged to “Be Free” by the local people I encountered. Through focusing on freedom and reconnecting with the land and the people I was able to release tensions long associated with being a marginalized person in my own birthplace. I am truly connected to one of the oldest civilizations on earth. I was not only reading about it in books, but actually being there, with my feet on the ground, hearing the voices of the people, tasting the spices in the food, feeling the vibration of the thunder in the skies and the songs of the spirits off all my ancestors that came form this place. It was a beautiful occurrence.

I will use all that I have learned to enhance the educational environment in my classroom and on campus. I will be delving further into expressing diversity, infusing more unique and inclusive resources in my lessons, encouraging personal and cultural narratives, and exploring their connection to learning and the quality of the academic experience as a whole.

Rashida Symonds

ALP Faculty

NSCC Akerley Campus

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