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Christelle Deems Pre-Departure Orientation in Nigeria a Success

September 21, 2011

Just days before my trip to Nigeria to conduct the Pre-Departure Orientation (PDO), I could describe my anticipation in three ways: Nervous, Exhausted, and anxious.

Nervous because, this year would be the first time we had ever conducted most of the PDO in-country before the students would leave for the United States. Although each state/ region conducts a mini orientation for their students, the main orientation traditionally took place in the U.S. upon the students’ arrival. It didn’t help that up till the day prior to my departure, I hadn’t received my Nigerian visa yet.

As it turns out, preparing for an orientation that will take place in another country necessitates not only superior organizational skills and diligence, but also great packing skills. After days of printing, three-hole punching, binding, packing, weighing, and repacking, I was finally ready for the trip. From that time, the feeling of exhaustion faded away leaving room for anxiousness.

I was anxious to see what the students looked like 6 months after they had been selected; I was anxious to see how excited/nervous they would be about their upcoming adventure, and most importantly, I was anxious to hear their thoughts of what America will be like and persuade them that most of their preconceptions may not be true.

The orientation in Nigeria took place on July 25th and 26th on the campus of Adeyemo College, a private high school in Kaduna, from which 3 of the finalists originate. I was thrilled to see all the students march in the classroom one after the other, recognizing some, attempting to pronounce some names only followed by humble smiles- a sign that my pronunciation was far off. We started with introductions. During which, I got to learn the true pronunciation of the students’ names. Ashiru Abubakar, a deaf student who is currently enrolled at the Illinois School for the Deaf, spelled his name in sign language for the class, which prompted me to give the first assignment to the students – I asked all students to learn how to spell their name in sign language from Ashiru because the next day they would have to introduce themselves in sign language.

The orientation went as planned. With the help of some alumni, we discussed various topics: such as host families’ expectations, goals of the program and religion. Alumni shared their experience with the students and gave them some advice about how to deal with homesickness and encouraged them to be involved in extracurricular activities. Some students were concerned about practicing their faith while in the program, Muslim students particularly. The alumni were very helpful in reassuring the students from their own experience. Even though their faith will be respected and that even though they may not go to a mosque every Friday due to the absence of a mosque in their community and school, the alumni assured them that their host parents would try to help accommodate them as much as possible.

At the end of the orientation, alumni and new KL-YES students went to the local orphanage and distributed over 50 clothing items that one of the alumni had sewn.

Overall, although I was very nervous about conducting the orientation in Nigeria, it went very well. The alumni were very helpful and I believe that sharing their experience with the current students was instrumental in reassuring them about some of their concerns.

The students are now attending high schools across the country. They are adjusting very well to their new homes, schools and community. Some of them have already started thinking about some volunteer projects they will do when they return home.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. September 21, 2011 8:13 PM

    Hi. My name is Jan Kuhl and I have a foundation in Ankeny, The Tim Yates Heggen Humanitarian Foundation whose focus is on building rain collection systems in Tanzania. We just donated $15,000 with an additional $15000 corporate match for the village of Miembani… Pics of the work now under construction are on the tim yates heggen faceboor or save the rain facebook. This year some neighboring schools are participating in the Walk for Water..waukee, gilbert and bettendorf and of course ankeny.. Is there anything we could do collectively re the water shortage issue? excited to see your results.

    • iriscenter permalink
      September 23, 2011 2:59 PM

      Hi Jan,
      I’d love to talk to you more regarding your efforts in Tanzania and the foundation you are working with. Please email me directly with more information.
      Thank you for all you are doing in Africa!

      Del Christensen
      Executive Director
      IRIS, Inc.
      600 Fifth Street, Suite 301
      Ames, IA 50010
      Office: 515.292.7103
      Fax: 515.292.7105
      Mobile: 515.971.0953

  2. deborah john permalink
    January 30, 2012 10:15 PM

    its good to have such an oppurtuinity as for me been an exchange student was a life time experience

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