SVSU official Kathryn Scott spoke about her recent trip as an educational ambassador to Sudan during the inaugural event in the new Traveling Tap speaker series.
Scott, an associate director for SVSU’s Office of International and Advanced Studies and the director of the English Language Program, spoke at the Pierce Road Bar and Grill at 5 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 7.
Part of the Office of International and Advanced Study’s recognition of International Education Week, the talk was titled “Off the Beaten Path” and covered both Scott’s week-long ambassadorial trip and her previous time teaching in Sudan.
For her more recent visit, Scott was one of 51 educators chosen as representatives by the New York-based non-pro t the Institute of International Education in conjunction with the Sudanese Ministry of Higher Education.
The delegates traveled to Khartoum, the Sudanese capital, where they made connections with their counterparts in the Sudanese higher education system.
“They wanted to bring American universities and Sudanese universities together to talk about potential collaboration, especially in the wake of the (recently lifted American) sanctions,” Scott said.
The first time Scott was in Sudan was from 2007 to 2010, when she taught third-grade students at an elementary school.
During her more recent trip, Scott met with students, one of whom recognized her from her previous time in Sudan.
“I had a student come up to me and say, ‘Are you Ms. Kate?’ And I said, ‘You look really familiar,’ and he said, ‘I went to Nile Valley,’ which is where I taught,” Scott said. “… He totally recognized me.”
Scott also talked about day-to-day life in Sudan when she taught there. Temperatures were often over 100 degrees in the summer, and her mother once caught her wearing her SVSU hoodie during a Skype call as if it were quite cold when it was 75 degrees out one winter day, Scott said.
There were some cultural restrictions on women’s dress, including foreign visitors, Scott said. Shirt sleeves were expected to reach past the elbow. Necklines needed to be high, and pant legs were to always reach to one’s ankles.
“Headscarves weren’t mandatory, but we wore them a lot,” Scott said. “A lot of the time I would just drape it around my neck just to have it, because I found that when I was walking in the street, I attracted a lot less attention with the scarf on.”
Scott said the people in Sudan were very hospitable, and they would have no problem letting a stranger in need use their cellphone for a call, for example.
Organizers of The Traveling Tap event plan to bring it to several more local breweries and restaurants in the future. They hope the speaker series will appeal to community members and that taking the talks off campus will make them accessible. Possible future speakers mostly consist of faculty, staff and even a few international students.
“It’s really interesting to hear what other people have to say about other countries,” said Bijesh Gywali, “I really like cultural exchange, being an international student myself.”