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We All Bleed Red - A Look at Active Learning in South Africa

Active learning—this seems like such a foreign word to most people. I don’t know that I completely grasped the entirety of active learning until I came abroad; but the funny realization is that active learning is something that can be done—and often is done—in our day to day lives, even back home.
Active learning can be something as simple as trying a meal, spice, meat, fruit, etc. you have never had before, but it also can be something as deep as building a bond with someone from a different culture and thus learning from them—their societal norms, their beliefs, their language, and the way they think. Are you following how simple it can be to be an active learner? I wish I had been more conscience of it while I was back home, because there is so much to be gained even from small interactions. Being hyper-sensitive to societal differences around me has made it quite easy and enriching to be an active learner in Port Elizabeth. Part of being an active learner is being willing to have an open mind, converse, and dive into new experiences. This can be difficult sometimes, but it is so worth it!
I have found that some of the most enriching experiences have come from just talking with locals. Whether it was about their family, where the grew up, their main language, the meaning of their name, or what they love most about Port Elizabeth, each conversation has taught me a little bit more about South Africa, its people, and how despite our many societal and cultural differences, we are all united in our humanity. People are people. Perhaps that is one of the most actively learned things I have experienced. Despite the fact that some of their food is different, their accents are thick, their fashions differ, and personal space is regarded much differently; they still make cliques, girls enjoy shopping, everyone bonds over food, and students get impatient when the shuttle takes too long. They may be a friendlier culture, which gives an illusion of confidence, but they too struggle with issues that are prevalent in any culture—appearance, confidence, friendships, etc. Of course, it is obvious that people are people, but I think when cultural lines are crossed, it is often expected that a different people group will act differently and struggle with different issues (yes, I recognize that each culture has its own specifics that cause them to differ one to the next). But no matter where or who you are in the world, a joke will make you laugh, a slap will sting, harsh words will make you cry, and when cut, we all bleed red.
There have been many times when I have sat back and been in awe that I am actually in Africa. The culture, people, and surroundings are different then back home; and yet, after being here for the past two months, I can’t help but only see the similarities and feel like I could be in almost any coastal state in the U.S. I found this very heartening, because it makes the world feel so much smaller and it makes us as humans feel much more united. If I have truly actively learned one thing, it is to appreciate individuals as well as cultures; but also the fact that our world as a whole is a culture in and of itself and we are all citizens taking part in the development of that universal culture-we must be aware of this hefty task and be sure to develop a world wide culture we would be proud to pass on.
Signing off,
Michelle Peniche

CEA MOJO in Port Elizabeth, South Africa

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