Susan poses on the border between Zimbabwe and Zambia at Victoria Falls in1992.
Susan visits a wildlife reserve in the Western Cape Province of South Africa with Southern Illinois University Edwardsville students in 2006.
Overseas Study Program
Dr. Susan Hume
Program & term abroad: Zomba, Malawi - Academic Year '91-'92
Susan's major: Geography with area certificates in African Studies and Environmental Science
Susan's current position (2010): Assistant Professor of Geography at Southern Illinois University - Edwardsville
Reason you chose this program: I had recently changed my major to geography and decided to take Chichewa, the national language of Malawi, just for fun. Our instructor told us about IU's exchange program with the University of Malawi. It seemed an amazing opportunity to explore a completely different part of the world, especially since I had never traveled much outside of the Midwest.
Best memory: My best memories are of day-to-day interactions with Malawian people: laughing with my roommate and dorm neighbors about our cultural differences and misunderstandings; talking with kids eager to practice their English; playing bao (a traditional board game) with friends; negotiating with sellers in the market; and having dinner in a family's home.
How did your study abroad program affect your college experience? I left as a 21-year-old kid and came home as a 22-year-old adult! By living outside of the United States, I developed a much greater appreciation for things Americans take for granted, such as our First Amendment rights. Living in Malawi and traveling in nearby Zimbabwe also gave me a much better understanding of the difficult challenges facing people in developing countries. Finally, successfully learning to adapt to all kinds of new situations made me a much more confident, outgoing person.
What have been the longterm benefits of study abroad? The academic year I spent in Malawi has had a powerful influence on my professional life. As a university professor, I conduct research on contemporary African migration to the United States, specifically how people's identities change when they transition from one country to another. This interest came directly out of the experience of having my identity as a Hoosier and Midwesterner disappear in Malawi, and my identity as an American and a white person come to the forefront. Long before I knew I would be writing a doctoral dissertation someday, I began to wonder what my Malawian classmates would experience if they came to the United States.
Explain the impact study abroad has in the workplace: My study abroad experience has had a great deal of influence on my teaching. I was fortunate enough to take three geography courses (population, urban, and economic geography) as well as an African literature, African philosophy, and a Chichewa course entirely from Malawian professors and instructors. This gave me a different lens through which to view the world. For example, when I teach American students about population geography, I am able to explain the logical reasons why rural people in Africa countries choose to have large families. More broadly, when I teach about a wide range of development issues, I am able to illustrate these issues with specific examples from Malawi. My students report on course evaluations that these examples help them to better understand and remember the concepts they have learned.
What advice would you have for a student considering study abroad? Study abroad is a life-changing experience not to be missed! It can open doors to opportunities you can't even imagine.