Monday, January 31, 2011

Why Field Study?

I'm still kind of amazed that I actually went through with my field study to South Africa. This time last year I was still skeptical about it, trying to figure out something to study, wondering how I'd get the money and approval necessary to go, questioning whether it would actually be the best thing for me to do at this stage in my studies. Then somehow I made it through the prep class, got a passport and a bunch of vaccinations, found a flight, flew to Africa, lived there for three months, and came home. Crazy. Through all of it I had a lot of second thoughts and worries, but in the end they were all unfounded, and I had an amazing experience.

The thing about a BYU Field Study, as opposed to a Study Abroad, is that it's entirely student-driven. On a study abroad you travel with a group of students and at least one professor, and you take classes and tests just like usual, but in a different cultural setting and with a more centric cultural focus. On a field study, you're with a group of students, but what you do is entirely up to you. I was there in an unusually small group, with only four girls, one of whom (Macrae, the facilitator) had been there before and was able to show us how to get around and what to do, or not to do, to make it in East London. We did a lot of things as a group and were constantly learning from each other, but each of us had our own projects and course work, and had to be entirely self-motivated to complete it. This allowed for near complete freedom in what we chose to study and do each day, which is both liberating and frightening. It was exciting to direct my own learning, but there was always the worry that I was focusing on the wrong things, not doing enough, or trying to do too much. It was definitely stressful, but what I really appreciate is that it taught me how to do things for myself. I chose my own topic, created my own project, found my own contacts, and did my own analysis. I had loads of help along the way from professors, facilitators and organizations, but any help that I wanted, I had to seek out on my own. After having to do all of this for my field study, I feel as though I know how to get things done in the real world. I feel comfortable approaching professionals and experts on topics that I'm interested in, and I feel as though I have something valuable to give back to them, whether it's expertise, opinions or just enthusiasm. This field study has been an incredible cultural experience, giving me a new perspective of the world and the ability to live in a different country, but even more importantly it's been an amazing educational opportunity, which has taught me how to direct my own learning, do my own research, and have the confidence to make it work.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for being such a great example of how a field study can be well prepared for, successfully conducted in-field, and followed up on meaningfully. I will continue to point future students to your work here.