Recently, Aleme Chitanje shared a photo that had been taken of her at the Wisconsin Antique Power Reunion’s annual show in Saukville, Wisconsin, which was a good reminder that our graduate students from Malawi also have lives outside the classroom.
In case you might be wondering, the picture with green grass and leaves on the trees is not an indication of an early spring in Wisconsin. Rather, the lush scenery and short pants are indicative of the fact that the photo was taken last July, when the second cohort of Malawian graduate students had recently arrived at Lakeland. The photo appeared not long ago, however, on the Farm Collector website, and Aleme was reminded of how much fun she had that day in July, driving her first tractor.
Aleme reports that she was visiting the Antique Power Reunion with her host family, Lakeland alumni Fred and Barb Seefeldt, both class of 1960. Through the generosity and warm hospitality of families like the Seefeldts, the Malawi students enjoy many "outside the classroom" experiences of American life. Friendship families, such as the Seefeldts, provide a place for the students to go to share an occasional family meal, especially at the holidays, as well as participate in other family activities. Over the past two years, the Malawians have gone horseback riding, sledding, tubing, and ice fishing, and have been taken on trips to cities such as Oshkosh, Madison, and Chicago.
Aleme had quite a good time driving an old but restored tractor, one of many that were on display at the fair. "It was wonderful experience," she said. "They exhibited tractors and other equipment that farmers used here in Wisconsin before modern technology. I had a lot of fun."
Fred and Barb first met Aleme at an 1862 Society dinner on campus seven years ago when she was here as a Lakeland undergraduate. At the dinner, the Malawian students were making a presentation about their country to the gathered guests. Barb recalls,
In talking with Aleme, we realized that she didn't have a place to go for the Thanksgiving holiday so we invited her to join us. The rest is history. She spends almost all of our celebrations with us and more. We learned about how an outsider views us and our abundance. We learned about the educational system in Malawi and how our two countries share similar frustrations and concerns when it comes to the teaching of our children. We feel we are a part of her family in Malawi, as she shares with us the happenings there. Aleme has filled our lives with love and great joy and we don't look forward to bidding her farewell once again in June. She will live in our hearts forever.
The story of Aleme Chitanje and the Seefeldt family is just one of many similar stories, where American host families and Malawian students at Lakeland College have come together to spend time outside of the classroom. In so doing, they provide each other with glimpses of what life is really like day to day both here and there.
This post is written by Lisa Vihos on behalf of Lakeland College. The program is made possible by the generous support of the American people through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The contents of this blog are the responsibility of Lakeland College and do not necessarily reflect the views of the USAID or the United States Government.