GradSWE Overseas, Liberia

Reflections and Radios – LSWE Camp Day 6

Olivia Dotson, Sophomore in Chemical Engineering, SWE at UM

Today was the first day in a while that we didn’t wake up to rain. The sun was bright and shining!


The reflection question for the morning was “Have you thought about attending school outside of Liberia? What do you think would be different? What would be the same?”

Many of the girls had previously thought about attending undergraduate or graduate school outside of Liberia in order to pursue their major. Some commented on the difference in access to internet and others believed there would be similarities in the curriculum.

The discussion from this question was able to flow right into the presentation on “International Experiences” led by Xiaohang. Xiaohang lead the group through all of the stages of preparation to attend school in another country starting with physical and then mental. The group had a discussion on worries that they might have when going to another country. Many of the concerns were about food:

“In Liberia it is a tropical climate, so most of our food is fresh and spicy…food in other countries could become a health problem” – Quinnetta

“In china they eat with only chopsticks, so you wouldn’t know how to eat” – Boyonoh

Some were about social/cultural differences:

“In Liberia, we live really close. In other countries we may be alone and want to connect” – Yamah

“We have to greet or touch people we pass by in Liberia as a social norm” – Felicia

After this discussion, Xiaohang shared some advice on overcoming these struggles along with language barriers, making friends, homesickness, and culture shock.

She talked about challenges that may arise in academics, career plans, finances, health and wellness as an international student. Then, Xiaohang let some of the students who have had international experiences or interactions share their story:

“I attended a foreign exchange program and the people there had different perceptions of Liberians, I had to adjust myself” – Janneh

“For the US it is just the weather difference” – Janneh

“I went to the US with Littie and we stopped in Brussels. There I saw the biggest airport I’ve ever seen…we compared everything to Liberia” – Quinnetta

“Weather was different. I was like how is the sun shining and I’m still cold” – Quinnetta

“One cup of rice is so small. I ate all of Melinda’s rice in one day!” – Quinnetta

“Everything about is was funny because we couldn’t find our way easily” – Quinnetta

Then Xiaohang shared her experiences with going to the University of Michigan and how she has learned to accept all of the cultural differences and embrace them.

After this session, we had practice presentations for the case study. This gave each group a chance to practice presenting and get valuable feedback on their presentation as they continued to work on them. It was nice to see the creative ideas that each group came up with to solve the energy problem in Liberia. From the same problem, there were many different solutions ranging from hydroelectric power to fruit power.

Bonyonoh and Gilly practicing their case study presentation

Due to the length of presentations, we ate lunch an hour later than usual, so everyone was hungry for cassava greens.

After lunch, we set up the room for the engineering activity on making FM radios. Melinda led this workshop with careful instruction on how to solder and emphasizing the safety of using soldering irons. After a while, everyone seemed to get the hang of it.

In the evening, Lauren, Chris, Melinda, and Xiaohang then went around to all of the apartments to meet with teams, going over their presentations and make sure everyone was on track to present on Thursday morning. This got everyone working hard on their presentations late into the night. We all spent time and energy preparing for the final presentations to come on Thursday!


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