Living a DREAM and learning to LEARN: Perspectives from the 7th INTALL Winter School
Dreams! Everybody has them, I am not talking about the ‘sensations that occur in our mind during sleep,’ I am talking about aspirations, the ambitions that we cherish when we are growing as people and as career developers.
Well, I have been living my dreams – from studying abroad to traveling around the world. But, perhaps the most exciting of the dreams I have so far lived was being part of the 7th INTALL Winter School 2020 at the University of Würzburg in Germany at the beginning of February. For two weeks, I did not only live my dream, a dream I missed in 2017, but have also acquired lots of experience that I believe will enhance my career and personal life.
The solo journey
Since I started traveling in Europe, I have always had someone waiting on the other side, someone, that knows the place. This time, it was different. I was alone and prepared to face the challenges that I might encounter along the way. First, I made sure I had enough time between connecting journeys; that way, if I get lost, I can find my way through without missing my flight or train. While the strategy sounds perfect, it could easily be disrupted by unforeseen circumstances. For example, while I had 2 hours of waiting for my train to Wurzburg from Frankfurt, it never occurred to me that the train could be delayed. Well, to cut the story short, it had 100 minutes of delay, and when it came, it changed the platform which they announced (in German) as it arrived, but I didn’t know about it in time. So, it took off as I watched with regret.
Meanwhile, I had alerted the receptionist at my booked hostel that I would reach later than anticipated due to the delay, and she had agreed to wait for an extra 30 minutes past her closing time. At this time, someone from India going to Nuremberg had also missed the same train. We looked at each other and started a conversation. We moved to the information desk to inquire about our fate. Luckily, there was one more train scheduled for the direction of our destinations, and that’s how we survived. Given the circumstances that had happened that evening (disruption of train schedules), the ticket inspector was kind enough to let it go, and I used the ticket that was not flexible (next time, I will give ‘flexible’ tickets the respect they deserve!) and oh, always book easily accessible hotels. My hostel was a 2-minute walk away from the train station, and I had 2 minutes left on the grace period the reception had given me (lucky me, huh!).
The two weeks in Würzburg
For the two weeks I spent in Wurzburg, I met amazing people from different corners of the world – the moderators, the organizers, and the participants were all exceptional in many ways. The heterogeneity of winter school fellows meant a vibrant hub of vast knowledge and life experiences to learn and to connect.
The first week was designated for lectures with a focus on international theories in adult education, adult education provision in Germany & social policy analysis models. We also had the opportunity to visit providers of adult education in Germany and discussions with international stakeholders in adult education and lifelong learning. From the field visits, I came to appreciate how similar and different countries and organizations are in the provision of adult education. The discussion with international stakeholders in adult education was equally so crucial that I had the opportunity to interact with renowned personalities whose works I have followed and inspired me over the years.
The interactive lectures on policy models and tools for analyzing adult education policies were influential in the comparative group work of the second week. We had the opportunity to pitch policy recommendations at the end of the first week combining insights from the field and the international stakeholders’ conversations. Many lessons were learned here regarding advocacy work in adult education.
The comparative groups
For the most significant part of the second week, the eight comparative groups were working hard to find similarities, differences, and perspectives from the transnational essays. My group theme was on the Role of adult education institutions and organizations in the professionalization of adult educators. My transnational essay focused on the Ugandan perspective, which had to be compared with the USA, Pakistan, Nigeria, and Brazil that my colleagues had presented. Dissecting the five-country aspects in terms of institutions & organizations, legal and policy frameworks, and pathways for professionalizing adult educators, was a task that we did with much enthusiasm with the help of three moderators and two practitioners. It was hectic but worth it. This post is not intended to highlight the findings of our analysis, but I must say, it was a learning experience for me as far as analyzing and comparing several subjects is concerned and understanding what is happening elsewhere from the people that live there.
The joy and fun side
The winter school was not only about lectures, field visits, group works, and the like. There was time for creating new memories too. Adult learning comes with lots of fun, and the joy we shared will last forever. First, there were lots of sharing ideas in classes whenever an activity would require forming groups and later presenting. I was impressed at how some fellows were talented at presenting their views – you should have been there when groups were submitting their policy proposals under the analytical models (Democratic-emancipatory model; Modernization and state control model; & Human resources management model). I learned that it is a tough job convincing stakeholders to ‘buy’ your policy recommendations, especially in a polarized world on many fronts.
Away from class, I had a trip to Prague and enjoyed the beautiful city with my new friends from Jamaica. I also was privileged to be invited by Bolanle Simeon-Fayomi, Ph.D., for dinner with Nigerian colleagues at the winter school. And of course, the climax of all the fun was at the farewell dinner code-named Franconia evening, where we had a taste of the homegrown and brewed wine.
As I reflect on the two weeks, the following stand out
- That never give up on your dreams, they may be delayed, but with determination and hard work, there are many possibilities to achieving your dream
- It is essential to learn how to make quick decisions. I delayed making some decisions, and it cost me time, but also, I made some swift decisions after insight from a friend, and it paid off. So, if you can, share your ‘troubles’ someone might help you find a solution quickly
- As we work in teams, the heterogeneity of groups requires that we sharpen our competencies of relating well with/to others, co-operate & work in teams and manage and resolve conflicts. I strongly stress the importance of managing emotions effectively as this will ease relating and working with others. This competency falls under the emotional intelligence block, one of the many building blocks for our career guidance model at Compuline Career Academy
- There are many unique similarities among countries regarding how the field and profession of adult learning education are understood and taken. We, therefore, need to unite forces to have a unified voice (for global advocacy).
- There are as well, vast differences in the practice. Which calls for exchange visits so that adult educators can see and appreciate the different perspectives (their context notwithstanding)
- Embrace digital literacy. Learn to ‘move on the App.’ You can monitor the next ‘stops’ on a train and that way you will not get out early or late (as some operators can be mean to translate into a language you understand)
Many thanks to the Professorship for Adult and Continuing Education and partners for enabling me to live this dream.
Danke schön Würzburg! 👌👏🙌
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