The academic year has drawn to a close here in Dodoma, which means I’ve completed my first semester auditing a Swahili literature course. I was thrilled to be going back to uni and it’s been super beneficial so I thought I’d share my reasons for why I want to keep going back.
- Course content. Though I studied literature at university in Australia, this was a course specifically on literary theories. While I knew about neo-classicism, existentialism and Russian formalism, this was my first time studying them as entities in themselves. I feel like it filled in some philosophical gaps for me.
- Vocab. Lectures use certain words over and over again. There are nouns like ‘topic’ and ‘concept’ and verbs like ‘integrate’ and ‘implement’ which you can easily miss in conversation, if they even come up. However, they’re are common in lectures, and super helpful for speaking about the Christian life.
- Attention span. When I started the course, I was brain dead after an hour. Now, while I still struggle to stay focused for two hours in an aural context just as I do in Australia, the language side of things doesn’t knock me around so much.
- Cultural learning. Whether through the books, plays and poems we’ve read, or the opinions of my classmates, this class has taken me beyond observing my environment and personal interactions to hearing and seeing the background cultural capital that influences life in Tanzania.
- Experiencing university life. By actually sitting in a lecture I heard about university events I wouldn’t have otherwise had access to. I also saw first hand the busyness of students, how some of the bureacracy works, what kinds of notes students take, what the role of the class representatives is, and what the dynamic is like between teachers and students. Some of these things I could have learnt by teaching a class but I reckon I gained greater appreciation of it by being on the other side of the lectern!
- Extra contact with students. Because I am in class, the fellowships are no longer our only connection to the student body. We are more visible to the general student body and I am meeting students who are not committed Christians.
- Friends! I don’t mean I have people to share at a deep level with but late into the semester I realised that I was no longer sitting by myself. When I entered the lecture theatre before the class started, I was busy greeting people and being greeted. Same deal when I walk on campus – there are people I recognise. Because the cohort moves through together, I’m hoping that continuing to study Swahili literature will mean building on these relationships.
- My lecturer is fantastic. I’ll dedicate a whole post to her next week.
All this is to say, there have been multiple dimensions to the goodness of studying Swahili literature in a Tanzanian university, in terms of language, culture, relationships and ministry. It’s so good I’m hoping to do it again next semester and Arthur reckons he’ll take a class too!
Tamie Davis is an Aussie living in Tanzania, writing at meetjesusatuni.com.