I just spent 3 months lecturing in Angola. I have always wanted to experience Africa. I think this is because my mother was born there and she used to tell me lots of amusing stories of her happy childhood in a small village in Angola.
When the opportunity came I just grabbed it with both hands! I was invited by an Angolan friend, a colleague I met during my undergraduate studies in Portugal. I always told her that one day I would join her in Angola, I just didn’t expect it to be so soon. She invited to be a lecturer at Instituto Superior Politécnico Tundavala in Lubango, Angola, a private Institute that hosts various undergraduate and some postgraduate degrees; from Engineering to Clinical Psychology (where I was included).
This was a great experience at many levels, as you might imagine and each level had its own challenges.
On a professional level it confirmed to me that I really enjoy lecturing. I had the opportunity to teach, but also to get to know the students and to work out their styles of learning so I could alter my teaching style accordingly. . I started a research centre, that aims to research African subjects and support the student’s research-related learning.
The Cultural Awareness Training provided by Careers Network proved to be very helpful. It meant that I was fully prepared to live within a totally different culture and was able to understand, respect and appreciate it.
While I was there, some of the cultural differences really shocked me. Children are treated differently. A colleague from Nigeria told me that children are seen but not heard. Children in Angola are selling things or begging on the streets, instead of being at school or forming interpersonal skills through play. This was the first time I had ever seen a society that wasn’t child orientated; this shocked me.
Before I arrived, I expected that the rhythm would be slower than what I was used to, but dear me, that slow?! In order to adapt to the lifestyle, I started making fun of it. For example, when waiting for my students to be ready to begin work, I used to tell them “Let’s look at the bright side, you’ll have less time to make the test, but you’ll never suffer an heart attack caused by stress!” They would laugh and I would adapt!
It was quite difficult for a criminal psychologist to digest some existent dynamics within the Angolan criminal justice system; regarding corruption. During a recent interview the Angolan president said, that “there is corruption in every country”…
Last year, I blogged about the importance of volunteering. During my stay in Angola, I many opportunities to put it into practice.
Every Friday evening, I travelled to a village with some Christian friends that were helping the villagers by giving food , helping to develop the infrastructure, and by sharing Bible stories. Also, every Saturday afternoon I would be involved with a children’s event. Every child from the neighbourhood was invited for one hour of singing, storytelling, and making crafting with snacks at the end.Now we are raising money to send clothes and shoes especially to the children at the village to keep them warm in winter nights and to protect their feet during their long walk to work.
This experience really helped me to broaden my horizons. My mind set and prejudices were challenged through exploring new places, experiencing new cultures and meeting new people.