Some of the students we spoke to in class had experienced life pre and post apartheid and were willing to share their thoughts or feelings about the changes. Although legislation exists to prevent continued discrimination and acknowledge the horrible mistreatment of black and colored individuals, many remember life during the Apartheid and its effects are still tangible today.
We visited communities where many children were orphaned, which meant that people within the community stepped up and helped raise all of the children in the community equally. These people were receiving minimal aid, but recognized that their community had a need and everyone needed to step up in order to fulfill this need.
The gains from the program were more than just academic for me: it was a spiritual journey. Within days of getting there, I had the honor of giving a speech during the Africa Unity Day celebrations at the heritage institute, alongside high-ranking local government officials and notable figures from the anti-Apartheid movement.
One day we stopped in Tzaneen to get a closer look at some banana trees and an employee of the farm happened to pass by and explained to us how the bananas are grown and harvested. We were always learning something new. Every moment of this program was an informative expansion of what I have learned in the classrooms at Michigan State.
We could see that the rhino was clearly dead and its horn had been taken. The entire atmosphere in the van changed instantly. Having heard and read about poaching, the history of poaching and the status of rhinos currently over and over, it was like hearing about animal abuse here in the United States, yes we know it happens but it doesn't hit home until you see it firsthand.
You never realize how attached you become to certain brands, foods, or styles of foods until they're gone- and you sure do appreciate them when you get back. At the same time, for each thing you miss from home, there's something new to try instead. (My experience: kudu is delicious, and rooibos tea is delicious.) .
Although the aesthetic beauty (see two of my pictures) and rich cultural traditions of the country were life-changing, I emphasize voices because what truly set this study abroad experience apart from any class or on-campus experience for me personally was the ability to speak with those who are living out lives completely different from my own.
Nelson Mandela is undoubtedly a hero, but I would have never been able to have such a hands on experience learning about this iconic figure if I had not gone to the country where he made such an impact. I was able to speak with people that lived during his presidency and here African citizens share their story of how he changed their lives.
All of these experiences opened my mind to cultural struggles that I had never previously been exposed to, as well as teaching me ways to be more sympathetic to those who may be struggling. I also learned many interesting facts about South African history.
Overall, one of the most important things I have learned about traveling is how humbling of an experience it can be. We live our day to day lives forgetting that we are part of one community, within one city, within one state, within one country in the entire world.
Going to South Africa with the knowledge that racial equality has only been improving for approximately the last 20 years and that unemployment rates soar over the 25 percent mark, I assumed I would be prepared for the disparity unavoidable in the southernmost country in Africa. Of course, I was wrong.
One of the most exciting things I got to be a part of during this study abroad was a rhino capture.
I learned so much about the history of South Africa while there, particularly on the devastating apartheid regime.
I was inspired to live life more simply and appreciate not only my possessions but the opportunities available to me after spending time with a local leader in a shanty town called Kliptown. I again felt the itch of the travel bug when I met European and African globe-trotters who told tales of trips to India and Thailand and China.
During my study abroad, I was able to learn teaching strategies and interests of the children that I plan to use in my own classroom. The students were always enthused and eager to learn. Experiencing this has made me anxious to meet my students.
By actively engaging in thought provoking discussions, lectures, service projects, and visits to historical landmarks and diverse educational institutions while in Africa, I gained extensive insight about the best ways that I can accomplish the educational and professional goals that I have set
Throughout my travels, I was fully immersed in the various cultures that are represented in South Africa in various ways, from hearing traditional Zulu stories, to experiencing Xhosa song and dance, to playing traditional South African instruments.
I got the privilege of spending everyday with these beautiful, inspiring kids whose smiles never fade despite being born into a world where their choices and opportunities are extremely limited.
I have never been able to feel love radiating through my body until she laid her head on my chest and counted my fingers in English, the only English she could speak.
In working with the kids at VVOCF, I also got to experience a new kind of hope.
I found it impactful for me to have wished Nelson Mandela, aka Madiba (his Xhosa clan name) a Happy 94th Birthday! As I am one of the only people in my family who has been out of the country, it is a moment that I will never forget, and be sure to share with my children in years to come.
This experienced added to my teaching philosophy, stating that I want to educate every student, no matter their disability, to the best of my ability and to the best of their ability.
When we reached the actual cells I learned that our tour guide was a man who was actually a prisoner at Robben Island during the time where political leaders who fought against Apartheid were on the island. The notion of a former prisoner on Robben Island giving a tour of Robben Island was somewhat troublesome to me initially. Why would anyone who was held prisoner want to go back to that place for any reason? It could have been a part of some deal, but I honestly b
An important lesson I learned while studying abroad is that there are things in life that you have to experience for yourself to fully appreciate and things you need to see and assess with your own eyes to understand.
First and foremost, this study abroad program helped me to grow as a future educator by allowing me to teach in an educational system far different from what we see in schools here in the United States. By seeing their educational system first-hand and gaining experience in working with the students there, I was really able to enhance my own academic growth.
As an American teacher, it was extremely difficult to deal with this form of behavior management, to watch my students hold back tears as their teacher hit them with a plastic stick. It was even harder to try to fill the role of the teacher when I couldn’t discipline in the only way the students had ever known.
To start, this experience was nearly indescribable regarding the phenomenal tourist activities in which our group was able to partake. Throughout our travels, our group had the opportunities to hike down Table Mountain, cage dive with great white sharks, ride elephants, bungee jump, and play with five-month old tiger cubs.
Most every activity I did was a new experience that allowed me to break out of my shell and grow on a personal level. As I struggled to keep my eyes open while plummeting to the earth attached to a bungee, I thought that I would never do something of this magnitude and if I could do this, what else was I capable of doing?
I could not wait to share my experiences from the past two and a half months with them, but I did not realize until I was asked that first question how hard sharing my summer with them would actually be.
The schools are vastly different from the schools we attend in the United States. There were almost nine hundred students in the schools (kindergarten through seventh grade), and there were anywhere between 37-45 students in each class!
While I was abroad I was able to grow as a person as well as a teacher. This program broadened my view of other places, people and culture.
This experience helped me grow tremendously as an educator and also immersed me in another culture where I was able to work with students and faculty of different races, religions, ethnicities, and backgrounds.
At the very least this experience opened my eyes to how big the world around me actually is.
Initially after returning from my program, I convinced myself that not boasting about my heavy experience would be more modest than sharing. After reflecting, I realized I would be doing a disservice to everyone that I could potentially impact, and those that they could in turn impact.
During this time we were fortunate enough to see all of the Big Five as well as almost all the other wildlife that roams naturally in this preserved park. The elephants majestically would walk right down the street we were driving; it became real how large they actually are when they were beside our vehicle and the professor had to be cautious about our safety. On our night safari tour we encountered hippos, giraffes, an elephant in musk, owls,
I came home now knowing that not all educational systems are like the one I am used to in the U.S., especially in terms of the pedagogical approaches that teachers choose to take. Sitting in the back of South African classrooms observing typical lessons helped me to really discover what I am passionate about as a future teacher.
After numerous animal encounters and as a future veterinary student, visiting Kruger’s veterinarian, Dr. Roy Bengis, and learning about his role in the park was probably the most informative and interesting experience while being in South Africa. We learned about disease management such as foot-and-mouth disease, bovine tuberculosis, and anthrax as well as conservation efforts especially with the Black Rhinoceros.
Educationally, this program goes above and beyond what is expected. We had the typical lectures and museum visits which were wonderful, but who our lecturers were was often the most powerful part for me educationally. A majority of our lecturers were directly involved in the fight against apartheid.
For example, due to living such a busy life and constantly being bombarded with technology, I am usually quite busy and stressed out. But being in South Africa, without my cell phone or my computer, I was given the chance to really indulge in the culture and follow the South African’s example of just living in the moment with the people you are with, going with the flow and not always thinking about the future. It was really quite a freeing experience&
Before I start to explain the rural areas I would like you to understand that the majority of South Africa is underdeveloped. The rural communities have thousands of people living there without lights or adequate supply of water. HIV/AIDS is a known problem in Africa but to actually see people living with this virus is heart breaking.