Reflections on the first semester: An Interview with Seme

The next in our series is with Seme who is in his first year at George Whitefield College. Seme will study the George Whitefield College (GWC) certificate course this year, with a view to commence the GWC Bachelor of Theology at the beginning of 2020. Seme reflects on how he has adapted to the new academic and cultural environment during his first semester at George Whitefield College.

How are you doing in your different subjects?

Currently I’m taking Introduction to the Old Testament, Numbers, Study Skills, Biblical Theology, Church Administration, English and Galatians. Some of my assignments have already been marked — that’s how I assess my performance — and I think I’ve seen improvement in my performance in my subjects. It’s been so good. The lecturers who have marked them have encouraged me to do more.

The recommended books that are available in the library are limited. So it can be difficult to access a recommended book when it is being borrowed by another student. Sometimes we’ll just take other books from the same module, but not the one recommended by the lecturer.

What have you found to be challenging at the college?

Overall I don’t have much to complain about this new environment and culture, though I’m still adjusting. It is really cold, because I came from hot weather. But I’m so grateful that I have a jacket and a heater to get me through this. 

One thing I’ve found difficult is interacting with essay or assignment questions here. In previous essays and assignments we just copy and pasted everything, but here we need to reference and footnote our ideas. I found it very difficult, and in the first assignment given to us, I wasn’t sure how to do it. I ended up getting lower marks in my first assignment, which was on Biblical Theology, because we still had that mindset of copying and pasting. But I came to realise that this is plagiarism.

In assignments I’m doing now, I’m doing better. The learning and teaching methods are challenging, but I’m coping. I’m grateful that the lecturers here ask students to approach them if they don’t understand anything, and they are happy to explain things more to them, which I’ve found so helpful. If there’s anything I don’t understand, I approach the lecturer and ask him to explain it to me.

What have your successes been at the college?

I think the environment here is really conducive to learning. The lecturers are always on time, which is so important and so helpful to me. It’s made me committed everyday in my classes. I’m happy with my performance — I’ve seen a lot of improvement, especially in English class. I do find this subject difficult sometimes, because of my educational background and the schools I studied in when I was younger. Spoken English has always been a challenge for me, but now that I’m seeing improvement in my English class, I’m so grateful. Our English teacher is like a mother to us. She always helps us, advises us and mentors us. I often get asked, ‘What is your favourite subject at school?’. I always say English because of how much I’ve improved in my speaking and writing. 

Tell me about your fellowship group.

Our college has a policy of fellowship and preaching groups. Students come together to share our backgrounds, how we grew up, and our testimonies. If we have a presentation coming up, we will present it to our fellowship group first. They will help direct us and correct any errors so that it will be good when we present it in class. We do public speaking, Bible reading, evangelistic talks and testimony presentations. The evangelistic talks are only five minutes, which helps us structure our own talks. Sometimes we listen to other preachers to hear how they present the gospel in terms of exegesis, because it’s important to learn how to explain the Bible by taking the original meaning into our contemporary situation. 

Is there anything you have learned that is new or surprising? 

One of the surprising things I’ve learned is how to understand the Bible. The way I used to read the Bible is not how I read the Bible now. We need to study the Bible so we understand what the author means when he’s saying something, and to differentiate the narrator and the speaker. Before I studied biblical theology, my mindset was that the New Testament is complete, so there is no need of the Old Testament. However, I came to realise that it is all one story of God. So the biblical theology has really helped to build me up to see the Bible as one whole story. We can’t have the New Testament without the Old Testament, and the Old Testament is not complete without the New Testament. This is so helpful to me.

How is your family?

I’ve thought about my family a lot since I’ve been here, but I haven’t communicated with my parents, though one of my brothers is in the city, so I sometimes communicate with him. But I’ve heard my parents are doing well because previously, they were living in a place controlled by rebels.

Yes, I heard that after the 2016 skirmish in Juba, that the rebels fled south, and from there, much of the South was under rebel control – is that correct?

Yes, the guys from that area also joined forces, and that’s why the rebel movement increased and became so powerful in the village. But I’ve heard that they have now surrendered to the government and there are no rebels in that area, so they now have freedom to come and go from the town. If they have something to sell they will come to the town to sell, and buy what they want for themselves.

That’s wonderful to hear that they can trade and move about freely.

I was thinking about them and wondering how they were coping with life, because if they can’t come to town, how would they get their daily needs and basic things like socks and salt? But when I heard that I was so happy. Also my brothers and sisters in Juba are also doing well, so I’m happy. I don’t communicate regularly with them but I’m glad that they’re doing well.

When you go back to Juba, where do you stay?

I have my stepfather. He and the whole family is in Juba. He does have one child, his first son, who is married and with his family in a refugee camp in Uganda. But my stepfather and mother and my wife and the children, they’re in Juba. My whole life, from when I came to Juba in 2013, I stayed with him until I completed my studies in Juba.

How can we be praying for you?

I think we are starting exams on the 3rd of June. It’s near and we’re preparing ourselves for exams, developing summaries and other things for us to sit our exams. So pray for us. And pray for our plans as we go home — pray for us that God will be with us. 

The final thing we continue to pray for together is for a computer, because I’ve found it very difficult this semester without one. So I hope that next semester I can have a computer so that I might have access to internet instead of going to the library late at night, and I’m not able to connect to the student Wi-Fi. That’s one of the things I need your prayer for.

We hope you enjoyed that glimpse into Seme’s life, family and studies. Why not take a minute to give thanks to God and pray for him? We have included a summary of prayer points below.

You can also check out the other interviews we did with other students in our series: Elias, Kasmiro, Alex and Philip. We also did a bonus interview with John, a recent graduate who is passing on what he has learned at college as a lecturer at Bishop Gwynne College, South Sudan.

Give thanks for:

  • A restful and refreshing break for Seme in South Sudan with his family
  • The provision of a laptop so that Seme can more conveniently access the Wi-Fi for his studies
  • Continued adjustments to the environment and culture at college and in South Africa

Please pray for:

  • A restful and refreshing break for Seme in South Sudan with his family
  • The provision of a laptop so that Seme can more conveniently access the Wi-Fi for his studies
  • Continued adjustments to the environment and culture at college and in South Africa