It hasn’t really sunk in that this incredible experience is over. Sure, I will still get to read my students’ reflective field diaries and mock grant proposals, but no more living in a huge, raucous group of university students. On one hand, it’s nice to be back in Singapore, to have my little feathered friend back home with me and, of course, to know that everyone is home safe and sound. On the other, it’s kind of bittersweet and in some ways, I miss them all. I noticed several people crying when we left yesterday, particularly when saying their goodbyes to the lovely HNU students who showed up at our hotel early to see us off. I have to admit to shedding a tear or two myself, but more so when I said goodbye to my HNU counterpart, Dr. Corazon (Cora) Batoy, who I’ve grown to know and love.
Professionally, this has been one of the most profoundly rewarding experiences yet. There were certainly ups and downs, but oh man, the opportunity to watch my students get their first taste of fieldwork (which I probably love even more than I love teaching), discover for themselves (via a couple of crash-and-burn kind of experiences) that you really have to be thoroughly prepared for fieldwork, go from never before having snorkeled (most of them) or even swum in the ocean (many of them) to completing more or less effective marine transects in under 60 minutes, and go from setting up so-so transects (at a snail’s pace) in the Manmade Forest and then take it to a whole ‘nother level the next time in the Rainforestation plot, well, what can I say ? Leading a field course – it doesn’t get better than that ! Some of my students faced personal fears, e.g., fear of heights, swimming in the ocean, handling insects, and that was hugely inspirational to all of us, I think.
Seeing the NUS and HNU students work together and become friends was also enormously satisfying and I think that these people will keep in touch with one another. Although Cora expressed her feeling that her students couldn’t keep up with mine, I’m not entirely convinced of that. Yes, they were more shy (except for Camille ;-), but they were also highly enthusiastic and intelligent, with far superior knowledge about biology and ecology and how to conduct ecological fieldwork. In the end, these differences (I think) were like a perfect storm, with the end result that the students delivered the kind of quality group projects that I knew all along they were capable of. And do stay tuned, because I will eventually post the deliverables they created to show you just how awesome these students really are. Once they hand in their field diaries, I will also post (with their permission, of course) particularly interesting snippets.
On a personal level, this trip taught me a lot about myself. Although I had my moments of self-doubt that I could ultimately pull this together (in the face of some fairly significant obstacles), in the end I did just that, proving yet again that I can do anything I set my mind to and perform in a pressure cooker. I also learned a great deal about teaching, about differences between Canadian and Singaporean students, and, most importantly about my students as individuals. The chance to spend so much time with them and get to know them is something you just can’t put a price on. They shared so much with me and allowed me into their lives and, in return, they were curious to learn about me. I soooo enjoyed hanging out with these wonderful people, and I really love my students.
Salamat sa tanan !