Where in Wisconsin could you find a potluck buffet that included nsima—a corn meal dish similar to grits or polenta—and fried bread balls called mandazi, alongside mac n' cheese, lasagna, Jello, and tater tot casserole? At Lakeland College, of course.
On Friday, June 3, the Malawian graduate students gathered on campus one last time with their host families, church families, Lakeland faculty and staff, and other friends to share goodbyes and a parting meal.
Professor Jeff Elzinga and Dr. Mehraban Khodavandi spoke to the crowd of more than 60 guests, lending their insights about what an enriching experience it has been on so many levels these past two years to have the Malawian M.Ed. students at Lakeland College.
Professor Elzinga thanked the host families and church families for their generosity and kindness to the students. He pointed out that while the experience here in Wisconsin has changed the graduate students, their presence in our midst has also changed us.
He spoke about the long history of the college's relationship with Malawi, a partnership that goes back to 1999 when the first cohort of five undergraduates from Malawi came to study at Lakeland. Then, in 2014, the program transformed into the current M.Ed. early grade reading program. "Now, after 17 years," he said, "the program comes to an end, and the feeling is bittersweet."
Dr. Khodavandi then talked about what it was like working with these students in the classroom. He remarked on the high level of scholarship he saw blossom among them during the year and how all 11 of their thesis projects had been accepted by the college's Institutional Review Board on first presentation. "That doesn't always happen with thesis proposals," he said.
Toward the end of the evening, the students shared a Malawian call-and-response song to bid their friends farewell, and Yowasi Nkhambala, the spokesperson for Cohort 2, thanked everyone for all that had been done to make the Malawians feel at home in Wisconsin. Everything about the event made it difficult to say goodbye.
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.