by Ania Rolińska
On 9 December 2015 Bill and I delivered a 50-minute presentation as part of the Research and Work in Progress Seminar Series at the School of Modern Languages and Cultures. This meant the audience did not only include colleagues from English for Academic Study Unit but also from the whole School. There were a few guests from the School of Education too. It was a privilege to present the project to both language teachers and researchers as that meant more varied feedback and multiple perspectives during the questions and answers time at the end.
Initially I was concerned about the length of the presentation – rarely had I given a presentation longer than 30 minutes – but on Wednesday the time flew really quickly and it was easy to fill it up. In fact, we needed to omit certain details and aspects of the project; for example, we had to keep the evaluation results to an absolute minimum. This made me realise again how rich the EAST experience was and what potential it has.
It was a good opportunity to remind myself of the success of the project, which for me is best illustrated by the smiley faces of our students handing over the certificates to their peers in Palestine – although physically we were miles apart, we were very much together at that particular moment, and showing the photos from the certificate award ceremony to my colleagues evoked those emotions from the summer, which had a motivating effect on me.
The presentation would not have been complete without Nazmi’s contribution. Sadly he was not able to link up with us via Skype as he had other commitments. However, his short video presentation was more than sufficient to provide the audience with an overview of the benefits the project brought to the students in Gaza. The attendees also appreciated a video on the topic of road infrastructure and maintenance in Gaza created by Alaa, one of the Palestinian students, as an illustration of the scenarios the students across the borders were looking into in summer. Prof. Phipps from the School of Education, who works closely with Dr Nazmi on the project Researching Multilingually at the Borders of Language, the Body and the State, could particularly relate to the contents of the film as she’d visited Gaza herself. Last but not least, Ghadeer, another IUG student, joined us via Skype and very eloquently shared her reflection on the project, drawing attention to the main gains: the experience of communicating and collaborating with international students as well as providing constructive feedback.
At the end of the presentation, there was a question from the audience about the interaction between the students. Even though a lot of it happened through media we didn’t have access to, we have a record of exchanges via Facebook pages (which we still need to look at in more detail). Based on that we could glean some of the additional topics that the students were discussing. Ghadeer, having participated in the conversations, was able to elaborate on that and we learnt that despite the workload and problems with electricity and internet access the students managed to discuss things related more broadly to their academic life, for example courses they were studying or planning to study, etc. It also turned out that Ghadeer and one of the UofG students decided to do a Coursera MOOC together! Prof. Phipps commented on the interesting notion of academic friendships and how she and Nazmi keep a record of their email correspondence. I must say her comment regarding the possible relationships the students could forge during and as a result of the project resonated with me deeply. It would be fascinating to know to what extent the students keep in touch with each other. Perhaps something to follow up on?
It seems to me that the audience found the presentation interesting – it’s a shame that there was no more time for questions. Maybe the questions could be asked here on the blog? However, I think for Bill and myself it was more than just useful to share our experience. For me personally, it was great to remind myself of the value of the project, and have some of the motivation rekindled (particularly useful in the middle of dark cold winter). Maybe more importantly, we got some good tips from our colleagues regarding possible funding options which we are diligently following up on – so keeping fingers crossed that something will come out of it!