“I’m from Germany - I am the Special one“
Jacinta S. Edusei, PhD student of the Professorship of English Language and Linguistics, taught at a summer school in Albania – here she tells about her experiences
A year ago, I would have said “I come from Kumasi, Ghana”, but then I came to Germany because I had found Prof. Dr. Josef Schmied, a specialist on English in Africa, who had agreed to supervise my PhD thesis on “Hedging in Ghanaian Academic Writing”. After only a year in Chemnitz, I was fortunate to be selected for the team to go to Albania to teach Academic Writing in the Summer School in Vlore (https://www.tu-chemnitz.de/phil/english/sections/ling/AW4SEE2014.php).
Although we introduced ourselves as coming from Germany, actually only Professor Schmied and one PhD student were born in Germany, the other one in the team was born in England and I in Kumasi. The students were extremely keen to learn – as keen as in Africa - and grateful for interactive teaching and learning opportunities. In their detailed final comments, they emphasised that they really enjoyed the summer school and only regretted that it had not been longer – unfortunately the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) had to cut the funding in the entire programme and we were one of the few projects to be continued. Thus, I am not sure whether I’ll have the chance to teach as a German PhD student in a summer school again next year.
In my teaching contribution, I noticed that the Albanian students were as surprised as me a year ago, when I was made aware that writing conventions are not simply fixed to be learnt by heart, but that I was made aware that conventions could be based on functional necessities. If, for instance, commas make it easier for the reader to digest a text, commas should be used in a writer’s conscious attempt to adapt to the reader. The same goes for other discipline-specific “rules” in referencing or argumentation. Writers, who feel certain to convince the reader on the basis of strong data evidence, can write “this factor must be decisive”, writers who do not have sufficient evidence may not want to “stick out their head” and just write “we may conclude”, so that they cannot be attacked directly. Albanian students had some fun to play down or “sex up” research claims, but they were not used to finding enough linguistic evidence in databases - this is why we also practiced learning from examples in text collections.
But the teaching was not the only exciting experience for me. Although I know London, Paris and Chemnitz, I had only heard of South Eastern Europe, thus I was keen to explore Albania with my colleagues. So we wandered round the streets of Vlore from the beach to the mosque and the station for coaches and mini-taxis. Potholes, crumbling houses, the contrast between rich and poor I was used to from Ghana but not the special attention I received in Vlore. This is why I was surprised when the owner of a restaurant, where we dined on Saturday, looked first at my Professor then at me and revealed “Yes, I saw you passing by down there on Monday”, which was obviously true. However, we would not have thought that anyone would remember us after more than 24 hours. Thus we all smiled and my colleagues started calling me the “special one”. For me personally, the special adventure was a shallow beach, which allowed me to have my first swimming lessons in the sea – I almost managed to float for ten seconds as a first step. The beach was not overcrowded, so it was possible for powered paragliders to land. We admired their manoeuvres in the air as they were captured by two photographers on the beach. As the gliders came down and loaded their gear into the waiting trucks, one of the crew members came over to us. It turned out that it was Alket Islami, who is quite famous in Albania because he has published several huge and expensive volumes on “Albania from the air” and maintains a well visited Facebook page. In no time had he taken a photo of both of us and I found myself as a special addition on an Albanian site.
Unfortunately, the special Albanian adventure was also too short for me, and I had to go back to my PhD in Chemnitz, from where I am now and where I and other postgraduate students put together attractive programmes for the English Club in Club der Kulturen (https://www.facebook.com/TUCEnglishClub). Although here I am no long so special, I hope that we can retrieve some of the special atmosphere that I experienced on my first special international assignment in Europe.
(Author: Jacinta S. Edusei)