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South Africa

Sydney Smith

Organization:  CIEE Stellenboch Arts&Science
Dates:  1/17/2016 - 6/16/2016

In Sydney's own words

How I contributed:  Before I traveled to South Africa the program was reworked from a "Sustainable and Community Development" model to an "Arts and Science" model. However, I was still able to take the Learning for Sustainable Development Course, which is the main reason why I decided to apply to CIEE Stellenbosch. Through this course I was able to work in a primary school and engage with local farm worker children. Oe of the most important things I learned from this experience is that a teacher or community development worker doesn’t need to make huge, grand-gestures to make a difference in a child’s life. Rather, it is more influential to take the time to appreciate the child for who they are and let them know they are loved, appreciated, and supported. There is so much power in making sure each child is being listened to and feels special. In terms of my overall program, I stuck to the mission of the program to engage in cultural immersion and understand the complexities of South Africa.

What I felt most challenged by:  I believe that with challenges comes growth, and South Africa was nothing short of 6 months of personal growth. South Africa taught me more than I could have ever imagined. Everything from self-reflections to historical analysis, this program as well as country gave me the opportunity to constantly grow. With that being said, at times I felt like I was in a constant state of reflection, which may have been the most challenging thing for me. It was challenging because before going abroad I never really deeply reflected upon experience and how they have potentially changed them, but by going abroad, immersing my self in a new culture, livelihood, and university, I was almost forced to reflect on every experience as well as emotion. Nevertheless, I am forever thankful for this challenge.

What I enjoyed most:  Choosing one thing I enjoyed the most is one of the most difficult things to do because it is amazing how much an individual can do, see, and experience in 6 short months. However, if I were to choose one thing I enjoyed the most it would have to be the cultural immersion. When deciding what program to choose, I knew I wanted a program that focused on immersion and that is exactly what I received. Living in a South African resident hall with 1st and 2nd years gave me the opportunity to learn and grow around fellow Stellenbosch University students, and helped me feel apart of the university's community. Additionally, being immersed in the university culture helped me understand the complex social dynamics within South Africa and see the social impacts of Apartheid even today.

Would I recommend this experience:  Sadly, CIEE decided to discontinue my specific program and any program in Stellenbosch. Yet, I would always recommend for students to go abroad.

Rachel Freeberg

Organization:  Oranjexicht City Farm 
Dates:  6/15/2015 - 8/7/2015  

In Rachel's own words

How I contributed:  I worked  on running a weekly vegetable program for the organization.  It was a collaboration betwee OZCF and an organization called Harvest of Hope, which sells vegetable boxes grown by micro-farmers in Cape Town's townships, the Cape Flats.  I contributed to the mission of the organization by working to build up this new project.

What I felt most challenged by:  I felt most challenged in the beginning, as I was unfamiliar with the project, the systems, and the organization as a whole.  However, I became more comfortable and confident in my work pretty quickly.  I would say my biggest challenge in South Africa was when I first arrived in late January.  I arrived in the country with little prior knowledge or contextual awareness.  As a result, I faced many challenges in understanding South African life and my place in South Africa as an American.  Although it was a steep learning curve, by the time I began my internship in June, these were no longer challenges for me. 

What I enjoyed most:  Every Wednesday people came to the farm to pick-up their boxes.  I enjoyed this part of the internship the most because I got to see the result of my hard work all week.  I enjoyed meeting all the different people involved in the organization.  As it is a community-base nonprofit organization,the people involved are all volunteers and thus independently motivated to work hard in furthering its mission.   I also enjoyed working at the weekly Saturday farmers market run by the organization. 

Would I recommend this experience:  I loved my internship at OZCF and would highly recommend it to other students.  I was given the right amount of freedom and guidance to work successfully.  I felt challenged by the work at times, but overall felt rewarded by its outcomes.  I think the people are a huge reason that my experience was so positive.  They were incredible mentors for me.  

James Lowell

Organization:  Connect 123
Dates:   6/12/2015 - 8/1/2015

In James's own words

How I contributed:  I helped engage in the local community by promoting healthy organic eating habits and helped expand local farmers' business through various programs that oranjezicht helped set up.  I also helped pioneer the first CSA in South Africa.  I also helped in on farm activities and in office operations in budgeting, accounting and marketing.  I also volunteered to be a sales person during thier weekly market on Saturdays.

What I felt most challenged by:  I felt most challenged by the differences in culture between South Africa and the United States.  South Africa went about their business in a much more personal way and more relaxed.   They focused more on working relationships rather than just putting your head down and getting to work.

What I enjoyed most:  I enjoyed the lifestyle that Cape Town had to offer.  I also enjoyed the culture and people within Cape Town.  They were extremely friendly and helpful and always seemed to be interested in how I was doing and what I was doing, always looking to help me.

Would I recommend this experience:   Yes, because it is an extremely enlightening program and is very accommodating.  They are extremely helpful in the transition between countries and are always there for you instead of being on a different agenda

Mary Beth Hannon

Organization: Agricultural Research Council, Pretoria
Dates: 26-Dec-14 - 11-Jan-15

In Mary Beth's own words

How I contributed: The project has samples from over a dozen countries that include both phenotypic and genotypic information and I am hoping to look for genetic markers that correlate to body size in the goats.  This project has provided me with an amazing opportunity to merge my majors and interests in both Animal Science and IARD and I am extremely thankful to have had this experience. 

What I felt most challenged by: I had to be extremely careful about opening my windows because my house was in a wooded area of the campus where a large group of monkeys liked to hangout.  Having been spoiled with snacks from previous visitors, the monkeys were very expectant and waited for me to open my windows so they could try to come in my house and steal my food.  As cute as they looked, I preferred admiring them from afar to I opted for a stuffy house and kept the windows shut.  

What I enjoyed most: I was able to make valuable and personal connections with many wonderful scientists and had the opportunity to experience both lab work and fieldwork in a setting very different from anything I could have encountered in the United States. 

Would I recommend this experience: I would wholeheartedly recommend my international experience program to any other student. The connections and memories I made will last a lifetime and I hope that one day I will have the opportunity to return to South Africa to do more work in some capacity dealing with agricultural development in underprivileged rural areas such as the ones where we sampled.  

Jacob Benedict

Organization: ZZ2
Dates: 3-Jul-11 - 3-Aug-11

In Jacob's own words

How I contributed: I think my presentation really helped the organization understand itself through a different perspective. My recommendations will also hopefully be considered and should make the business more healthy and profitable in the long term.

What I felt most challenged by: Finance work was not really seen as important within the company, much more emphasis was placed on production than everything that came after it and supported it. My project was mainly concerned with everything but production, so convincing everyone that I came into contact with that the project was worthwhile was a challenge. I think I overcame this obstacle by presenting a very high quality report that was not too technical fro those not well versed in the business world.

What I enjoyed most: I enjoyed every aspect of my trip to South Africa- there is no most. I loved the uniquely South African experience such diving with Great White Sharks, bungeeing off of the world's highest jump, seeing penguins in their natural habitat, going on a safari in Kruger and surfing the most famous waves in the world. Meeting the people there was an incredible experience itself. I interacted with everyone from the CEO of a major corporation to jobless squatters in Johannesburg's Soweto township. The work I completed there was rewarding and fascinating as it was real world experience with an international twist. I suppose what I enjoyed the most about my experience is that it was international.

Would I recommend this experience: I would wholeheartedly recommend my international experience program to any other student. It allowed for flexibility in what topics I wanted to explore and provided a meaningful forum to present my findings. ZZ2, the company I worked for, is in a truly fascinating stage of its corporate life and there is much to learn from them. Any program in South Africa would be a rewarding experience as it is such an interesting and dynamic country- you can't go wrong there. 

Alexandra Hoffman

Organization: African Impact
Dates: 13-Dec-11 - 20-Jan-12

In Alexandra's own words

How I contributed: I worked with a lot of local Cape Tonians who had been in South Africa during the apartheid. I was able to learn a lot about the changes that have been made in the last 15 years as well as how their situation is still precarious. I now have an immense understanding of why development in South Africa is taking longer than expected and how I can better assist that in the future.

What I felt most challenged by: I have never had as much independence as I had down there. It was intimidating at first but incredibly liberating.

What I enjoyed most: Working on the Vineyard. It was absolutely incredible.

Would I recommend this experience: Do not go through VA Corp. They are incredibly unorganized and scattered. It was very stressful trying to figure out what to do and who I needed to talk to to get things done. They didn't even know half of the time. The winery was incredible though and I encourage anyone interested in learning about wine making to go to South Africa!