When I was going away to University, I was at a loss about what to study. I was torn between a Business degree (with more than a little parental pressure at play!) and a geography degree as I love being outdoors and had more than a bit of adventurous travel spirit. I’m slightly ashamed to say that what swung it for me was the opportunity of a 3rd-year field trip to Tunisia which sounded like a real adventure… it turned out to be far more than that, but I’ll leave that bit of the story to the end.
At first, I found the transition to life at Uni challenging and spent much of the first semester wondering if the decision to study for a degree was right for me, regardless of my rather dubious way of choosing what to study. But after the first Christmas when I returned to my waitressing job for the holidays, I appreciated that the opportunity to get a degree would probably result in more life choices. So, I went back hoping to get inspired and find a real passion in what I was studying. And it was that term that I was to start a module in Human Geography with a focus on learning about developing countries.
To say that it piqued my interest is an understatement. My lecturer, Bill Kelly, not only opened my eyes, but also my heart. His first-hand experience of working with rural tribes in Africa had me enthralled. I had grown up in the era of the Ethiopian famine and Band Aid dominating the news, so to hear his first-hand experiences really put these social issues into context. Bill and his unorthodox lecturing approach (no whiteboards, projectors or handouts here!), of his personal experience delivered with pure enthusiasm and passion, opened my eyes to the fact there was so much more to understand and learn than what was being displayed on my TV screen.
Looking back now, I liken Bill’s lectures to story-time on the carpet at primary school. He told us about his journeys, of the adventures he had and the people he met. And all these stories were of ambition, fortitude, fun and success. They were filled with colour and humanity. And he somehow managed to pin it all down at the end with lessons about the possibilities and richness of developing countries that could be achieved. Its instilled values in me about the importance of global citizenship and seeing beyond our immediate geography.
Without Bill, I might have drifted through my degree without experiencing that inspiration and clarity of direction for what to do next. Not only that, but he also showed me how a teacher can help you learn far more than facts, and that helping people learn is just as much about emotions and tapping into our values and psychology.
And as for that field trip to Tunisia… well, there was a really irritating student on the bus behind me, but after an inspirational trip led by Bill and learning to see things in a different way, that irritating student is now my husband and the father of our 2 children. I sometimes wonder if I hadn’t been inspired by Bill, would I have stayed, would I have found my inspiration, and therefore would I have this family. I have a lot to thank him for.