By Grace Walker
Since day one, my professors in the School of Public and International Affairs (SPIA) have been teaching me vital lessons about the world and the way that it works. Through the pages of books and the words of lectures, I have been able to learn about the lives of people around the world. However, SPIA has also afforded me the opportunity to take off and travel to some of these places in person, as an invaluable addition to my in class studies.
For the first time in my life, last summer, I traveled across the globe to the southern tip of Africa. There, I studied in Stellenbosch, South Africa under the instruction of the Head Professor for the International Affairs department, Dr. Markus Crepaz and Sociology professor Dr. William Finlay. It was through their classes that I was able to learn about South Africa’s complex history, all while exploring the country and some of its most beautiful and historic cities and towns such as Stellenbosch, Cape Town and Johannesburg. In six short weeks, I learned more about one country than I ever had before.
In addition to academics, some of my most memorable lessons on this study abroad came to me outside of the classroom. This is largely due to the fact that the South Africa study abroad affords students the opportunity to engage in a service-learning component in addition to the six-hour course load. This opportunity is unique to the South Africa study abroad and was one of the reasons I, and most of the other students on the trip, chose this location. Through service learning, I was able to interact and learn from some of South Africa’s next generation through a partnership with an afterschool program and NGO, Vision Afrika. Each weekday, after class, my peers and I would pile onto buses that would take us to Kayamandi, a township located close to our host family and university. The conditions in this township differed greatly from our time spent in the town of Stellenbosh, and our trips to the township highlighted some of the inequalities that South Africa is still striving to remedy as a nation. In the end, I learned lessons from these children and formed relationships that I will never forget.
Without SPIA and the University of Georgia, I never would have been able to make this trip of a lifetime a reality. Through programs such as the Stellenbosch study abroad, the School has demonstrated to me its commitment to creating global citizens. I will carry the memories and lessons I gathered from this trip with me for the rest of life and will continue to urge anyone who will listen to take advantage of this opportunity at some point during their four years at the University of Georgia.