A video dialogue program for young women in the USA and Muslim countries
October 14th, 2006 at 10:51 am
Posted by Zia in Sessions

Another few words on our initial session. After participants in both groups had a chance to introduce themselves, we moved onto the first topic on our list, life in the classroom. The women in Gabes started by describing how students were admitted to universities in Tunisia (a series of tests) while the women in the US talked about the admissions process here (interviews, letters of recommendation, essays, etc.). We discussed where students live: in Gabes, it’s at home unless the students go to school outside of their home area. We also talked about the degree to which students have to cover the cost of university: in Tunisia, higher education is essentially covered by the government, so students have to pay very little. Here in the US, unfortunately it’s not quite the same…

One of the most interesting parts of the conversation came when we began discussing the degree to which parents influence students’ choice of study. The women in Gabes chimed in with a resounding, “We make the choice, not our parents.” They pointed out that conservative parents exist everywhere, and parents would always try and influence their children, but deciding what to study and determining a future career was up to the students themselves. All of the Tunisian participants who spoke up had chosen English because it was a subject they loved, not because it was something their parents had dictated.

We ended the discussion after an hour, but could have gone on a lot longer. Several of the American participants indicated they’d like to figure out a way to communicate with the participants in Tunisia in between sessions, so I’ll start to look into options that would enable an online dialogue for any participants who might be interested.

October 12th, 2006 at 7:56 am
Posted by Zia in Sessions

We launched! Hard to believe that after all this planning, we finally started the dialogue with our counterparts in Tunisia. There were about 7-8 of us in total here in New York and about the same number in Gabes. The initial kinks were pretty minor: the connection dropped a few times, but we managed to reconnect each time without a problem. The only other technical glitch on our end was with the microphone, which extended no more than a foot from the middle of the table and worked only when we held it up to speak (see Virsa trying to be heard below).

In spite of the technical issues, however, the discussion went extremely well and the participants on our end had very positive feedback on the first session. Everyone here agreed that seeing the other participants made a big difference and would make establishing a rapport much easier. And the participants in Gabes spoke terrific English - understanding them wasn’t a problem at all. Hopefully they could understand us, as well…

More on today’s discussion to come soon.

October 10th, 2006 at 7:54 am
Posted by Zia in Planning

This Thursday it is. I think we are all set for a launch first thing in the morning - our technology director has agreed to come in early to accommodate us, and the time seems to work for participants in both locations.

First up on our list of topics is student life in the classroom.

October 5th, 2006 at 7:53 am
Posted by Zia in Planning

Inching closer to a program launch. We are working on finalizing the day and time of the videoconferences, as well as a potential launch date over the next couple of weeks. I’m hoping we’ll be able to hold the sessions on Thursday mornings NYC time - it’s tight timing for our Tunisian counterparts, but potentially doable.

October 1st, 2006 at 7:53 am
Posted by Zia in Planning

We’ve brought on board almost everyone that was on the orientation call on Wednesday, plus several others. We’re also nailing down a time for the program. Waiting on final confirmation, but I think we’re close.