‘We never stop learning’ — Simone Vasques, exchange student to Fordham University

Posted on September 10, 2015

Six postgraduate students from the Faculty of Education embarked on an exciting mission from the end of May to the middle of July 2015. Adila Bandini, Abby Grunow, Elisma Williams, Buhle Tshabalala, Anel Schoeman and Simone Vasques, all honours students in Educational Psychology, were selected as part of an international exchange programme for a six-week visit to Fordham University in New York, USA.

Prof Booi Themeli, Professor of Economics at Fordham University, hosted the students. He accompanied a group of American exchange students to the Faculty of Economics and Management Sciences at the University of Pretoria (UP), then returned to Fordham University with the group of UP students. Prof Themeli was born in South Africa and emigrated to the USA after he was offered a scholarship a few years ago. His areas of interest are African Economic Development, Emerging Markets: South Africa and Project Assessment.

While at Fordham University, the students stayed in the student residence on Rosehill Campus and attended lectures with postgraduate students from Fordham on Lincoln Campus in Manhatten. Prof Themeli assisted the students in exploring different opportunities in Educational Psychology and accompanied them to several institutions. ‘It is clear that this international exchange programme broadens the vision of our students and provides them with insight into the many opportunities in different careers,’ said Prof Ronél Ferreira, Head of the Department of Educational Psychology.

Although their studies were the main focus, the students had the opportunity to visit the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty, the World Trade Center, Times Square and Central Park. ‘This was bigger and better than we could ever have imagined,’ said Adila Bandini.

The students were overwhelmed by the hospitality and caring of staff and students at Fordham. ‘Their experience of knowledge is one of exploration and inference, making meaning through engagement and discussion – a class built on mutual respect, a space where all parties co-exist in harmony, while never failing to change academically. Prof Amelio d’Onofrio was phenomenal. His unique style, in combination with his existential approach to psychology, never failed to engage us,’ said Adila.

A highlight of the visit was the outstanding teaching and guidance of Prof Amelio A d’Onofrio, who is a clinical professor and Director of the Psychological Services Institute in the Graduate School of Education at Fordham University.

The students benefitted a great deal from the teaching style and positive approach of lecturers at Fordham. ‘I was amazed at how welcoming and open-minded most people were. I think it is good to broaden your world-view and listen to as many opinions as possible in order to grow in yourself,’ said Elisma Williams.

‘When people ask me about my time in America, it is hard to encompass just how extraordinarily life-changing and mind-blowing it was,’ said Simone Vasques enthusiastically. She noted that Fordham is an outstanding institution that encourages freedom of thought and expression. ‘They have staff who value the individual and encourage a practical approach to learning. This opportunity educated me, exposed me to different perspectives and people’s unique experiences, and changed me,’ she said.

The students who participated in the programme feel that it provides students with opportunities to exchange ideas and merge understandings of children and psychology networks, and to make life-changing connections on a personal level, both as individuals and as educational psychologists.

‘Something that stood out for all of us during the visit to Fordham was the humility of everyone in the Faculty of Education. They seemed genuinely honoured to have us there and did everything they could to make us feel welcome. While the campus is incredibly beautiful, the people inside, with their warmth, knowledge, experience and respect for one another, made it a truly exceptional experience,’ said Abby Grunow.

‘My visit to Fordham not only allowed me to have the pleasure of attending lectures by Prof Amelio A d’Onofrio, it also offered me the opportunity to broaden my narrow ways of thinking and living. It allowed me to acknowledge life beyond the constraints that I have put on myself and it rejuvenated my passion and appreciation for South Africa and the dynamic changes that we are capable of. From my interactions with various Fordham students and staff, I came to the conclusion that, above and beyond the resources the university has and the above-average staff they employ, it is the commitment and contributions of the alumni that allow it to remain the exceptional university it is,’ said Buhle Tshabalala.

With their remarkable lecturer at Fordham University, Prof Amelio A D'Onofrio from left: Anel Schoeman, Abby Grunow, Elisma Wiliams, Simone Vasques, Buhle Tshabalala and Adila Grunow

- Author Annalize Brynard

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