Gearing up!

Trip Start Jul 10, 2010
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of United States  , Maine
Tuesday, June 29, 2010

In a few short weeks I'll be leaving my small town in Maine and heading to South Africa for a semester of studying abroad. One of the reasons I was drawn to Stonehill when visiting colleges several years ago was the strong study abroad program, and I am so excited that the time has finally come for me to take part!

I’ll be in Stellenbosch, which is outside of Cape Town, living in student apartments at Stellenbosch University, taking classes, and hopefully doing some service work as well.

Why South Africa? I’ve had a hard time articulating to friends, family, professors, and even myself why this feels so right for me, and what exactly the draw is. I have been very fortunate to have already had several overseas excursions, including an 8th grade exchange program in Japan, three weeks backpacking in Europe with my brother last summer, and a recent service trip to the Dominican Republic with a group from Stonehill. I want to see a part of the world I have never seen before and might not otherwise get the opportunity to experience. I am also very interested in service work and issues of social justice, and from what I hear it sounds like Stellenbosch will be right up my alley.

My parents are getting nervous as my departure date approaches and to be honest I’m getting a little anxious too. South Africa is in the headlines, with the world cup going on this month, as well as startling statistics about crime, rape, and poverty. I’m a small town girl (cue Don’t Stop Believing) and I know I’ll have to be smart and be careful. I’ve been reading all I can about South Africa, apartheid, the customs and history, but I don’t think I’ll ever feel fully prepared.

From my reading, I know much of South Africa culture is derived from the aftermath of the apartheid, and I wonder how different life will be over there from life here. I’ve seen injustices and massive inequalities, especially on my trip to the Dominican Republic, and also closer to home through my work with groups such as School on Wheels, a terrific organization that offers tutoring and support for families experiencing homelessness. I’ve seen the unfairness, the struggles, and how many peoples’ lives are so very different from my own upbringing. I’ve also seen how wonderfully rich people can be without wealth or material goods, and how much I have to learn from others. In some ways I think I have a good foundation for what I’ll experience in South Africa, in other ways I think I’ll be completely knocked off my feet.

I’m enjoying my few precious weeks at home, catching up with old high school friends, volunteering at a local children’s museum,  baby-sitting as much as possible ($$$) and having college friends up for a weekend.  I think July 10th will be here before I know it!
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