December 2011 Archives
Well after about 30 hours of traveling I am finally in Cape Town. It only took four planes; a stop near D.C, Dakar Senegal and Johannesburg SA before arriving here is this so far amazing city. We took South African Airlines, which I would highly recommend. The food would be A class airplane food in my mind- my food ranged from blueberries, pineapple to brownies and kit-kats, scrambled eggs, sausage and so much more. I slept a lot of the plane rides but when I wasn't sleeping they had a screen per seat that consisted of blockbuster films such as The Help, Water for Elephants and Horrible Bosses- I watched those three but there was about 50 more movie titles to choose from. Along with movies I listened to CDs they had ranging from Justin Bieber to Adele to Keith Urban.
Last night after we arrived and everyone had collected their items from baggage claim we met with the InterStudy leaders who drove us to our houses. I am in house 14 with eight other girls. Outside my bedroom window I have a garden, which at the moment is bright and sunny and making me very excited to go outside. The temperature is mid seventies.
The plan for today is having an orientation with InterStudy, walking around the area and going to the grocery store, getting a tour of the campus and then we have the evening off.
I am so excited to be here and to be off a plane for the next three weeks! So many exciting adventures are awaiting to happen!
My name is Matt Norring. I am a finance major in the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota. Today, December 24th, is Christmas Eve, and I have just finished spending time with many of my family members. I am so thankful for everything in my life including this opportunity to go on a study abroad trip to Cape Town, South Africa.
I can not even begin to describe the feelings and emotions running through my mind as we are only 1 day away from departing. There are many things in life that we are all sometimes guilty of taking for granted - home, food, family, education, health to name a few. However, I am certain this study abroad trip is not one of those things for me. I am ready to leave all of my preconceived thoughts and expectations behind and open my eyes to something completely new. I can not wait to open my mind to another culture and experience something that will truly be 'life-changing'. I have always been fascinated by South Africa's will to never give up during the apartheid regime. I believe there is so much to learn from this country's rich history and how they have rebounded from such great adversity.
One thing that I am most excited for is helping out in the townships. I have always thoroughly enjoyed volunteering. To me, helping those in need is one of the greatest eye-opening experiences one can go through. I have never witnessed firsthand the levels of poverty in the townships that are discussed in Kevin Winge's book 'Never Give Up', but I can only hope that I will be coming in with the right mindset.
Until Next Time,
This will be my first time leaving the US. I'm beyond excited, but also scared. As of now it hasn't really sunk in that I will be in South Africa for the next three weeks. Beyond this being the opportunity of a lifetime I have many reasons for going. As a student majoring in youth studies I've grown to appreciate and use Social Justice Youth Development (SJYD) as my grounding theory when working with young people. I strongly believe that youth have a voice that needs to be heard. Instead of dismissing young people's voices, spaces need to be created where youth can actively use their voice and engage in their own development. Furthermore, youth have a political self and are aware of the social, political, and economic forces that hinder not only their development, but also their communities. Historical events, such as apartheid, where young people played a major role in creating social change, motivate me to understand how this transformation took place. Visiting communities and genuinely listening to the rich narratives, particularly related to reconciliation and resiliency, will aid me in my work today as a youth worker and in my future career as a social worker. From this experience, I hope to gain a world view lens and understanding of different ways of knowing that I can encourage and use in my efforts to eliminate social injustice and inequality.
I have just three short weeks to make the most out of an experience I will have only once. Three days from now I will be on my way to South Africa. I still can't believe I'm actually going. The second I learned about this program I knew I had to be a part of it. I remember at the end of the summer before school even started I nervously told a few friends about my plans to go to Africa over my break. I hadn't even applied, but my heart was set on getting to Africa.
It's so difficult to put into words all the reasons I have for wanting to go to Africa. I want to see things I've never seen before. I want to meet people unlike any other people I've met thus far in my life. I want to open my eyes and my soul to a new world. I want to learn what it really means to feel and what it really means to be human. I want to define my goals, hopes, passions, and sense of self by pushing myself to see through a different lens. I want to be faced with situations where I will be forced to go out of my comfort zone. I want to get a taste of a country that has overcome the turmoil of Apartheid by upholding and enforcing the simple value of forgiveness. As much as I want this trip to be fun, exotic, and full of adventure, I want it to challenge me even more.
I am expecting to be totally blow away by the beauty of South Africa. I expect to be completely speechless when I first arrive. Reflecting on y previous work as a camp counselor and a tutor for elementary school kids this past semester has really made me aware of how much I love working with children and feeling like I myself am making a direct impact in someone else's life. Of all the exciting excursions and plans made for this trip, I am most excited to work with and inside one of Cape Town's townships. Life in a township is something I am totally unfamiliar with. My expectations are likely ignorant ones so I am very anxious to rid myself of ignorance and dive in full force as work with and alongside new and incredible people.
As I sit here three days before we leave I am feeling so grateful for even being able to have this opportunity. I feel so fortunate to have such wonderful support from my friends and family and I am so looking forward to feeling the warmth and embrace of all of you who will be traveling with me. I spend the majority of my time traveling between Minnesota for school, Rhode Island to see my family, and Wisconsin where I spend my summers working at camp. I'm thrilled to be going to South Africa and expanding my map. I hope that these next three weeks will only be the start to a lifetime of adventure--whether it take place in another country or locally.
Reading the description of the course, certain phrases struck a chord with me: "Their story of overcoming Apartheid is unfinished yet their spirit to endure is essential to our understanding of human possibility," "forgiveness," and "moving forward." I knew little of the story of Apartheid, but I have come to learn more about it in these past few months, and I am now excited to meet the people who have overcome such a tragic time. I think I will have a lot to learn from them, as I too have been through some difficult times (which pale in comparison to the struggles of the people of South Africa.) I absolutely adore listening to the stories that people have to share about their lives, and I tend to always see a thread of commonality in everyone that makes us intrinsically human, which I will be searching for in South Africa. I feel that us citizens of the United States have so much to learn from non-Western cultures; we are not the only beings on this planet and I believe there is more to life than we see here in our consumer-driven society. It is easy for me to read about non-American countries, and learn in classes about non-Western cultures, but I know it will be life-changing to immerse myself in another country.
I can't say that I'm not apprehensive about this trip at all. After all, I will be going to another country for the first time, for three weeks, with people who I have only met a few times before. However, the nervousness hasn't really sunk in yet. Right before I leave, I have had to finish up finals, and finish applying for grad schools. This is one of the most stressful times of my life, and its hard to feel worried when I have so many other things going on. South Africa will be a welcome "break" from my hectic life here in Minneapolis, and from what I know of the people I'm going with, they are awesome. Honestly, the biggest thing that's bothering me right now is that I will be leaving my pets, and my boyfriend, Corey. This is the longest I will have ever been away from my cat, Distance, since she was born, and Corey tells me she often sits by the door and waits for me to come home from work.
(This is her)
I think I am just rambling at this point; I always do that when I am faced with the task of writing a blog. I want to leave some final words to my friends and family: I know you are worried about me, but I am going to be okay. Others have made the trip before, and survived. I am extremely excited to be able to participate in this wonderful opportunity, and I know I will bore you with many stories on my return.
I wanted to post the poem I shared at our first pre-departure meeting. Again, I wrote it after acceptance to the South Africa program. I was overwhelmed with joy and excitement. I painted the lion in a high school art class.
I have always thought lions to be the most beautiful creatures. In these animals, I see both myself and the self I want to become. Lions embody power, strength and independence. Yet, there remains a strong sense of community within a pride, with each member complementing, supporting, and learning from the other.
I just returned home from an event run by two of my friends who are youth workers, collaborating with young people of color to give voice to educational inequities.* I was inspired by the high school students and community members who shared their stories, naming the disturbing -- yet unfortunately unsurprising -- ways that wealth affects the quality of schools in the United States. What has become effectively a policy of depriving resources to communities of color and low-income communities is a key, root cause of disproportionately high rates of imprisonment of these same groups. Lack of access to quality education and thus employment opportunities profoundly impacts young people's lives -- preventing some from being leaders simply because they are not white and/or don't have money.
Hearing these stories, surrounded by many dear friends, I was reminded why I'm looking forward to experiencing a few brief weeks in South Africa. Certainly I'm grateful to have the privilege to travel halfway around the world, see beautiful mountains, and meet some activists and children who I hear are wonderful. Nonetheless, I must also never forget myself as a college-educated White American with the economic opportunity to pursue this experience -- reminiscent of colonial travel to 'exotic' places far from home -- with responsibilities to address the many injustices ingrained in our society, within Minneapolis / Saint Paul and the University of Minnesota itself. I realize that I'm constantly thinking about how my experience in South Africa can provide insights into organizing with others to fight for changes in the United States, a country founded upon the creation of white supremacy. I'm reminded that endeavors to change centuries old systems aren't a one-time act but rather works in progress, moving in multiple directions and entailing frequent mistakes, instead of a singular march toward some particular arrival point. I don't expect an answer of sorts but I do look forward to being away from the Twin Cities, processing and reflecting on the ways I'm implicated in this experience while it's also affecting my political consciousness uniquely.
I signed up to go to South Africa because I'd heard from some good friends of mine that they underwent significant changes personally. I plan to put my whole self into this trip and soak up every ounce of learning I can, in order to reflect more on what I can do at home here in the United States. Ultimately, we must strive to uproot the legacies of apartheid maintained within our own borders.
*Their organization is called the Youth Education Justice Initiative (YEJI) -- please find them on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/YEJImn or Twitter @YEJImn.
So this is my first blog for South Africa....actually, this is my first blog I have written ever! Big deal, I know, but I hope for everyone who reads this, I hope it is a learning experience. Not just for myself, but for the people reading it, that you will begin to understand what I go through and what we, as a group experience in our adventure to South Africa together. :)
There are so many reasons why I chose to go to South Africa this winter break. I don't think I could fit it into a single paragraph, but some of the main reasons I am choosing to go are because I have always had a fascination with Africa. I find it to be a diverse and beautiful country that I have never understood. There are many different people, cultures, and religions that are not highly known in the United States. They have gone through things that I cannot even image and they still manage to be true to themselves, that is a beauty in itself.
I also chose this global seminar because of it's name, South Africa: Tracing the Footsteps of Social Change. I was looking online and I saw the name and instantly read the description of the program. I fell in love with the seminar. The description talked about the beauty of South Africa and how the people, even through Apartheid have achieved a sense of happiness and zeal of life. It discussed that as a student I would focus on my "self" and to be honest, I think that is a major thing that I need to work on in my life. I hope that I will be able to focus on my "self" and to be able to grow as a person and to be able to understand the culture and my surroundings in a positive way to help me figure out who my "self" truly is. The description says we will learn about the history of South Africa and we will examine how South Africans view their community and how they live together. This caught my eye because I want to work with urban youth in particular and many urban youth are a different ethnicity than I am and I believe that this will help me grow as a person and a youthworker to better begin understanding other cultures.
My expectations for this trip are far and wide. I'm so excited to go to South Africa but am incredibly nervous at the same time. I have never travelled this far, I've been to Mexico and Canada but those two countries almost don't count because they're so close! I've never gone over the ocean! So I'm not looking toooo forward to the plane ride :P I get antsy with a four hour plane ride to Mexico so we'll see how this goes! But I am expecting this to be an amazing trip! I've heard this trip is awesome and I have heard from other people who have visited South Africa that is incredibly beautiful. So I'm expecting nothing less. But I don't know what to expect with we do our service learning in the Delft township. As Kevin Winge stated in his book, I'm afraid that I will only be looking through an "American lense". I'm scared that I won't be able to get past my "Americanism" to be able to truly grow with my experience. So my expectation of myself is to get past my "Americanism" and to be able to "come in right" to South Africa. I can't wait!!!!!! :)
Kevin highlights some other key things to keep in mind when entering a new culture. He explains that 'You've got to come in right.' The ideas he expressed have really hit home with me.
However, I am afraid that I will not be able to 'come in right'. I do not want to enter this experience as an ignorant being who thinks she knows it all. I also do not want to end up one of those people with good intentions that went wrong. I want this experience to be something that I learn from and that those around me can learn from as well. I guess I'm just afraid that I will be a 'tourist'. This is not what I want.
If anybody has any advice or words of support on how I can 'come in right'... I would appreciate it! Thanks,