When we resumed classes for the spring semester, we learned about AUN's course connection programs which facilitate outcome-specific engagements, international collaborations and intercultural awareness between peers in American-style institutions supported by the Global Liberal Arts Alliance (GLAA). The idea was novel to us, and as we discussed the possibilities and anxieties of interacting with peers 5 hours ahead of our time zone, we were encouraged by our writing instructor to open our minds and explore the personal and collective discoveries which came with voluntary participation in the program. So, as a class filled with expectant minds, we keyed into this unique partnership with Forman Christian College (FCC), Lahore, Pakistan.
On April 13 2021, the AUN Freshman Composition and FCC Language and Gender course collaboration officially began with each of us being assigned to groups of twos or threes for the initial icebreaker exchanges and future communication outside the shared tasks. I was more excited than everyone else because I have many great friends from Pakistan, and I already knew a bit about their culture and lifestyle. So being able to interact with more people from Pakistan sounded exhilarating.
Our first exchange was an introductory email – a type of expository writing package that contained who we are, what value systems kept us grounded, and how we felt about different general issues. The second shared task was fascinating as we were asked to exchange one poem about our heritage and highlight what resonated with us in it. It was pretty insightful and engaging as we got to know more about each other's literature, culture, artefacts and beliefs through the language of poetry. It was also remarkable to see how my classmates searched through different creative works to know more about their backgrounds. I want to think that we all learned some valuable lessons about who we were through that exercise. The final assignment was a structured essay about a widespread issue that escalated worldwide during the pandemic-influenced lockdown period - gender-based violence. Because of this assignment, we understood better what it is, how we can recognize it, what can be done to stop it, and why it is a significant threat in our society. Again, our peers shared their perspectives, and we benefitted from seeing this problem through their eyes and hearts.
When the program started, I had no idea what to expect, and these engagements proved to be very educative, skill-building, fun and interesting. When Mrs. Emilienne informed us about the project, I remembered my childhood dream about someday having a pen pal. I remembered it because this experience was similar to having many pen pals at once, and I finally managed to fulfil the dream that I once had.
I hope that we can sustain these shared activities and institutional collaborations because they help the participating students enhance their writing and research capabilities, but they also provide a platform for them to learn about each other no matter where they are located in the world. Interacting with people from diverse nationalities, just as we do at AUN, helps in having a better understanding of who they are, what matters to them, how their cultures shape them and what their aspirations are. It also helps participants understand that while there may be expected individual differences that highlight their uniqueness, many things bind us together as human beings. I learned a lot throughout this program, and I hope that our new friends from Professor Austin's class in Pakistan did as well.
Reported by Mihai Andrei Zacharia, CMD Major