Why Reflect?

Why I Loved Reflection

“Reflecting was one of my favorite components of the experience.”

Alex Tallentire ’13, Political Science

Fulfilled Indianapolis Community Requirement by: Building bonds with refugees at Northview Middle School and First Baptist Church

For course: Introduction to International Politics and Political Science Research Methods

Favorite activity: Learning about himself through working with others

An “Aha!” moment: Writing/reflecting on the experience

While students are on site and participating in service-learning each week, they are often openly stressed at the idea of reflecting on their service. Reflecting was one of my favorite components of the experience. Like many students, I would sit down disgruntled at having to do another tedious assignment for class, but I would almost always leave the writing session refreshed and grounded. I had to isolate myself from the pace of my day to properly reflect on the exchanges and experiences I had encountered.

I can understand the stress students feel, but at the same time, I understand the worth of the professor’s questions in encouraging students to think deeply about their experiences and to tie class information to service-learning. I would advise students to openly discuss their experiences and interact through service learning organically.

What Do I Reflect About?

Below is a response on this issue from a student in research methods ICR class. The passage does a great job of touching on issues related to reflecting on experience in this class:

“It seemed an impossible task to be required to construct connections between the laughter, hardships, motivation, determination, failures, achievements, and lives of children fated to be blind – a monumental and fluid web of threads, each worthy of exploration in their own right – to the rigid demanding structure of academic research, observation, and analytical evaluation. No one, in my mind, could do such a thing, so then, it dawned on me:  I could not connect my service learning to specific readings, passages, essays, and research, but I could easily connect it to all of it. Service learning certainly is everything we talked about in class throughout the semester, but it is not one thing alone. It is ethnographic field notes. It is quantitative and qualitative analysis. It is the betterment of communities, but it is not any one of those in particular. It is everything. It is infinitely more than the sum of the parts that we explored in class. It is more than I can explain in a paper such as this. Service learning is an experience, and thus, it is something only fully understood when experienced, and attempting to sum it up in a few short pages-no matter the insight, analysis, or angle-seems nothing short of folly. There is simply not enough space on any amount of pages to describe the change of heart that occurs at some level within everyone who has experienced service learning.”

Seeing the Familiar with Fresh Eyes

“Through my service-learning course, I gained a broader knowledge of Islam than I did while living in Egypt.”

Sandra Guirguis ’14, Communications Science and Disorders, Spanish

Fulfilled Indianapolis Community Requirement (service-learning requirements) by: Attending Jumah at the Nur-Allah Islamic Center

For course: China and the Islamic Middle East

An “Aha” moment: “A different experience”

Through my service-learning course, I gained a broader knowledge of Islam than I did while living in Egypt. I attended Jumah at the Nur-Allah Islamic Center on Fridays and participated in many activities with the congregation. The people there are so welcoming and warmhearted. They are always happy to see Butler students and to answer questions about Islam. I remember going to prayer and thinking, “Wow, if I were blindfolded, I would probably think I’m at a church, not a mosque.” Every student should visit the center before they make any stereotypical assumptions about Islam.

Overcoming Anxiety

“I realized that I too was once unsure of myself at the center.”

Emma Jay ’14, Political Science and International Studies

Fulfilled Indianapolis Community Requirement (service-learning requirements) by: volunteering at the Immigrant Welcome Center

An “Aha!” moment: Anxiety

As an Advocate for Community Engagement (ACE) I once had a student who expressed great discomfort performing service-learning with refugees at the Immigrant Welcome Center. She was concerned about causing offense and not understanding the people there.

At first, I had difficultly comprehending her situation, but then I thought back to when I first started service learning. I realized that I too was once unsure of myself at the center. I was nervous about finding where things were, about following the exact plans given to me, and about bringing up conversations that might offend or upset the refugees. Yet as I discovered, establishing a meaningful connection takes time to adjust and even requires an occasional mistake. It is all part of the learning process, and one cannot be afraid to take that risk. So while anxiety may be natural and inherent in such experiences as service learning, one should not let that hinder them in seizing the opportunity to make a difference and to be transformed.