From Life Lessons to Life-Supporting Research

Article by Sarah Whitesel, ORMC Graduate Assistant | October 20, 2020

ELI alum Pius Kilasy stands outside on a sunny day. To his right is a small, yellow bush.When Pius Kilasy was studying at the University of Delaware, he learned an important lesson when a bus ride that was supposed to take him from Washington D.C. to Newark, DE instead had him en route to Newark, NJ.

An ELI alum and a current UD Borel Global Fellow, Kilasy explained that through a series of missteps and miscommunications, it wasn’t until he was on the bus to NJ that he realized his mistake.

Taking it all in stride, Kilasy eventually got off the bus at Trenton, NJ and took the train back to Delaware, but when he reflected on the trip, he realized that it was more than a funny story about the challenges of international travel. For Kilasy, the story also illustrated the value of cross-cultural understanding.

“Everyone had his own understanding,” Kilasy said to describe the miscommunication that he and the bus driver had when they were trying to determine which Newark Kilsay wanted to visit.

“So it was a challenge, but I learned something also,” Kilasy continued. “Sometimes, you need to ask and ask, ‘Please, do you understand?’”

The desire for understanding, whether it be cross-cultural, academic, or about his native Tanzania, was evident during Kilasy’s studies at the ELI. A graduate of the ELI’s Graduate Conditional Admissions Program, Kilasy used his time in the program to prepare for graduate studies, taking every opportunity he could to learn more about his field of study while engaging with the required readings and final projects of the program.

Kilasy is an economist, so he used his time at UD to deepen his understanding of agricultural economics before returning to Tanzania to conduct his research.

ELI alum Pius Kilasy holds his graduation certificate during an ELI graduation ceremony. To his left is ELI Director Scott Stevens.As a UD Borel Global Fellow, Kilasy spent over a year at UD studying English, completing course work, and preparing for his research project before his return to Tanzania. Now that he is back in Tanzania, he is finishing his research project, which studies the impact of nutrition on maternal health and child development. Through his research, Kilasy seeks to encourage greater education about nutrition for Tanzanian women of childbearing age, in addition to increasing access to nutrition in local Tanzanian communities.

“It is better to do our research in our own country so that we can support our fellow Tanzanians,” Kilasy said.

For all of Kilasy’s enthusiasm to return to Tanzania and begin his research, he was also grateful for the opportunities the ELI afforded him to take full advantage of his graduate education.

“Coming here and meeting with different professors and different types of lecturing […] I was now aware how professors were teaching,” Kilasy said, explaining that from the materials he studied at the ELI, to the instructional approach of the faculty, everything helped him prepare for the expectations of a graduate program in the United States.

Kilasy began his studies at the ELI in March of 2019 before he matriculated to UD for the academic portion of his Borel Global Fellow studies. He said that when he first arrived, he had trouble adapting to the swift pace of ELI classes. However, with some time to adjust, he felt he moved into a new phase of his ELI experience where he felt capable of achieving his tasks and ready to begin his graduate studies.

“After completing the ELI and training for graduate studies, I am now competent,” he explained.

Now that Kilasy is back on his home turf, he does not have to worry so much about adjusting to the US university system, figuring out the complexities of intercultural communication, or even adjusting to the bus system. Yet, even from the comfort of Tanzania, he still looks back on his time at the ELI fondly. From the instruction he received on his reading and writing, to the assignments he completed that helped him gain a better understanding of US culture, Kilasy was enthusiastic about his experience at the ELI and spoke highly of his instructors.

“ELI to me; it means a lot,” he said. “They have enlightened me. They have given me energy to go through.”

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