TSiBA Education and Stanford University Partner

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After many conversations between Jen van Heerden from the Bing Overseas Study programme and Benu Mukhopadhyay, Career Centre Manager at TsiBA Education the first students arrived at TSiBA to work on their in-service training: Kareem Alston, B.A. Candidate | African & African American Studies and Timothy Huang B. A. Human Biology Candidate - Human Development and Education.

Benu Mukhopadhyay, Career Centre Manager was invited to their final oral presentation of their experience.  Kareem presented a powerpoint of his experiences and his focus was ‘Entering Community’. Indeed I can say he entered the TSiBA community with open arms.

Here are their presentations:


I want to discuss my experience at TSiBA Education through the lens of Entering Community. I believe the idea of Entering Community has served as one of the most important aspects of my service learning experience thus far. It has been crucial to my development as an individual as well as my success at TSiBA in the 10-weeks that I’ve worked there. I will describe two experiences that I’ve had at TSiBA during my service to illustrate this notion of Entering Community. Two experiences that I believe have served to introduce Tim and I to the TSiBA community from the very beginning.


The first experience involves: Binders.

Now traditionally, Binders seem harmless right? They are nice objects, functioning to help you organize your notes, papers, pictures etc. There is nothing harmful about Binders… right? Well, then change that one Binder into 120 Binders. 120 Binders that have to be filled with 15 different documents that are yet to be printed and whole punched. That is, 120 Binders plus 1800 pieces of paper equals: lots and lots of tedious and frustrating work. The first project we were given was in fact to create 120 of these Binders filled with orientation material for the incoming students. I can honestly say, when I was told I was going to work in a tertiary business school for community service, I did not anticipate doing this type of project. On top of this, all of the students with me on this program, in one way or another, believed at one point that our Stanford education qualifies us to save the world. Giving us the ability to complete any task or project thrown our way. For example, “Single-handedly transforming a non-profit organization during the 2 days a week of our 10-week community service learning abroad program.

So, why am I filling Binders? How is this helping the organization I’m working with? And how does this process help one adequately enter a community?

Despite the tedium of the project placed in front of us, the process of filling these Binders proved to be a very humbling and important experience. I came to realize that if Tim and I weren’t working on these Binders, one of the tremendously busy faculty members would be. However difficult it was for us to do, being the only assignment that we were given, it would have been significantly harder for someone juggling five different other responsibilities. It helped me realize the nature of what my role at TSiBA could be. Repositioning what I saw as my impact on the community. That if I fully committed myself to any project given to me, and gave it 100% of my attention and energy, I could make a real contribution to the students and the faculty.

Furthermore, my willingness to put so much energy into such a menial project allowed the community to see that I was genuinely there to do whatever they needed me to do, no matter how minimal or mundane the project could be. It showed them that I wasn’t coming into the community with the perception that I was somehow more qualified then they were or better than they were, but that I was ready to do what needed to be done. I believe this experience helped me to effectively enter the TSiBA community; even if it was primarily with the supervisors that I worked for.


The second experience I want to talk about is one that is of a different nature. That is: Hosting/MCing the new student orientation braai.

During our second week of working at TSiBA, we were “asked”/strongly encouraged to kick off the year for the new students by hosting the talent show at their braai. We were also given the task to keep them having fun and inspire them to dance. Hesitant to say no, Tim and I accepted the responsibility of hosting the braai, not really knowing what to expect. Admittedly, I was a little nervous about the experience. Here we were two random Americans who hadn’t met any of these students. We don’t know what they enjoyed, if they would understand the jokes that we made, whether they would warm up to us. If we didn’t do a good job, we could have ruined the talent show, and set a very bad first impression of us to the students. However, if done properly, it would be a great way to introduce ourselves to the students and to the community as a whole. In preparation for the braai, Tim and I decided to just be ourselves; to not hold back on any energy or commitment, and to fully put ourselves out there for the students and….
It was a blast. The students had a lot of fun, Tim and I got the chance to act a fool while at work, and we got to know everyone really quickly. We did a little dancing, Tim gave a rap and overall everyone had a great time. Looking back on that experience, I would say if the Binders helped us enter the community, the braai made us a part of it. We were able to show the TSiBA community that we were willing to put ourselves out there, be vulnerable and selfless towards the needs of the community. We showed that we were interns in a business environment who liked to have fun and weren’t afraid to be ourselves. After this event, I felt as though the TSiBA community had embraced us. No matter if we were leading a Math tutorial or an Information Technology session, all the students saw us rap and dance, and were more than comfortable approaching us for help.

They even gave us the nickname of Harold & Kumar; referencing a popular American film that feature characters that look vaguely like we do.

Back to the point.


Both of these events were essential to our ability to enter the community as fast as we did. I would say that my major take-away from this whole experience is that to enter a community most effectively, you must do so with an open-mind, a genuine heart, and the willingness to learn. You need put your ego regarding what your education or experience qualifies you to do to the wayside and prepare yourself to put together some Binders. Don’t take yourself too seriously, put yourself out there, host a braai or two. If a community is entered correctly, lasting relationships are formed, and great productive experiences can be had. Even though you may enter the community as an outsider, you can leave as a part of it.

Moving forward, when engaging any sort of future service learning/community service project, I will definitely give great time and energy to figuring out how I will enter the community.


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