Best Choice I Ever Made by Esmeralda Barcenas, Summer 2018
Summer 2018 was an amazing time from the moment I landed on a different continent. I studied at the Universidad de Cantabria in the Northern coast of Spain, where I was exposed to different cultures and traditions. Studying abroad in Santander, Spain has been one of the best decisions I have made. I took classes about the history of Spain which were really interesting, but the best part was being able to relate them to the things that still exist in Spain today. On the weekends I was able to travel throughout Spain which gave me the ability to visit some of the most renowned museums such as the Museo del Prado, el Guggenhiim, and Museu Picasso.
Before returning to the US to begin the semester at UT, I decided to make a stop in Paris. I met with a friend and together we explored the city as well as learned more about their traditions and history. There we visited the Louvre Museum, which holds Da Vinci’s La Joconde (better known as the Mona Lisa), the Notre Dame Cathedral, and the Eiffel Tower.
Experiencing New Things Everyday by Tressa Smith, Maymester 2018
After being in Cape Town, South Africa for about a week now, I feel like I am experiencing and being exposed to new things every day. Everything is so beautiful here, from the mountains and sunsets to the culture and native people. For me, the most impactful experience so far was eating at Mzanzi’s restaurant in the township of Langa. I felt like we got a genuine South African experience from the authentic food, music, and sense of being invited into someone’s home. While abroad I have been to many restaurants but this is definitely the only one that has shown me the culture and make me feel as though I am at my own home.
My internship has been pretty fulfilling because I love working and teaching children and we get to actually go into schools and teach lessons about economics to 5th graders and leadership skills to the 7th and 8th graders. Being in the actual classroom, helping these eager students really brings me joy, they get so excited when they see us and they absolutely love playing games such as dodgeball and basketball with us.
Today, I went to Bo-Kaap and they happened to be having a peaceful protest to help preserve the heritage and culture of their town, because the government started putting up commercial buildings right next to their houses. After talking to a local about the peaceful protest she explained that there would be food and music, sort of like a gathering to end Ramadan. Conversations and experiences like these helps to show how important it is to preserve the heritage and culture of South Africa.
I am so excited to see what else I will experience and do while on this trip. I have been pushed out of my comfort zone tremendously while here, but I feel like it will only bring about growth.
Blessed and Inspired by Mickelyn Washington, Maymester 2018
Every morning I wake up, it feels so surreal to know that I am in Cape Town, South Africa. I am extremely blessed and grateful for this opportunity. In this past week, I’ve already learned so much and have been extremely inspired to make a difference in my own community back home. With our class lectures and discussions providing context to our internships about the townships, I am gaining a well-rounded perspective of urban economic development in Cape Town.
This inspiration is heightened with my experience from my internship with Philisia Abafazi Bethu (PAB), meaning “Heal Our Women”, an organization designed to empower women and develop youth. I’ve been able to hear stories from the founder, Lucinda, about her time building the organization in Lavender Hill township, which is no easy task — to say the very least. Lucinda exemplifies true passion and dedication to a cause and community.
Lavender Hill has roughly 86 thousand people and 3-5 people die a day with gang violence as the leading cause. Children don’t go to school and most women find themselves in domestic abuse households and/or on drugs. The worst of it all is that many live in inhabitable homes called informal settlements. This isn’t even the half of it. So the founder of PAB works to help women and children holistically develop and help those around them.
Thank you FLI for pouring into me during my time at UT to even be able to have the courage to apply to this program, and thus gain this exposure. In addition to the phenomenal mentorship, your scholarship has also played a major role, financially, in getting me here to Cape Town. I’m forever grateful.
Recognizing My Privilege by Ashley Ikwuagwu, Maymester 2018
Today we had the unique opportunity to listen to a member of the ANC (African National Congress), and it had me thinking about a lot of things. Particularly about how the ailments of South Africa’s–and Africa as whole–societal problems lies in education. The children of Cape Town are not comprehending their curriculum, and the courses are geared towards their success. Sister Helen, a nurse practitioner at my internship at the health department of the YMCA Athlone shared her experiences, as she lived through apartheid, and she mentioned the curriculum for black students included things like sewing, how to wash the dishes, and other domestic tasks. Where was the math, the science, the humanities? From this I can see how the system is designed for the failure of black and colored people of this country, and how apartheid can continue to live even though it technically has fallen. Apartheid translates to ‘apartness’ in Afrikaans, and although they aren’t obligated to be separate physically, they are mentally.
The mindsets of people of color and white people are so disconnected from each other, it’s almost bizarre. A local from Cape Town was talking about how during apartheid, they had a job and economic security, but now they have no job and no prospects. It makes me think about how the city can be so affluent, but the unemployment rate is 27%. It makes me think about the droves of children who need teachers who are invested in them, and the pool of recent college grads who could serve as amazing teachers while searching for jobs in their sector. It also makes me think about the role I play in the grand scheme of things.
Looking at where we staying, the privileges I have during this time of the water crisis, the fact that I was able to get an internship while locals can’t, has me feeling really guilty. It’s been mentioned a number of times that we as Americans and as students will feel uncomfortable at many points during this trip. While leaning into that discomfort, I’m starting the realize that the beauty and awe that I’m witnessed, may never be witnessed by someone native to the area. The fact that I’m able to walk to the corner store and buy a 5-liter jug of water for 50 rand, and think “wow this is cheap”, while some families can’t drink or afford half of that makes me uncomfortable. The fact that if I felt inclined, I could leave the water running for the whole day, come back, and STILL have water to drink and bathe with, makes me uncomfortable (I would never do that by the way). Realizing that I have the means to have consistent and reliable transportation to Waterfront to just LOOK at the water, while the reason someone couldn’t get a job is because they don’t have a way to get to the job in the first place, makes me uncomfortable.
Today we got to do a cross cultural exchange with students who attend UCT, and I mentioned to two of the students that I would love for them to come out to Long street with us this, and they mentioned that they’ve never been there before. They had been here for 3 years and have never been to Long, but I had been there for 5 days, and had already been 3 times. Although small, it was in that moment that I’m enjoying a country that wasn’t designed for its natives–really its non-white natives. That obviously makes me the most uncomfortable because I feel guilty and as though I am propagating and participating in an alternate system of oppression. Going to the District 6 Museum and realizing that the Waterfront, our hostel, all these restaurants, and so many other things that I’ve visited and admired stands on the land of a bustling community that was once a family, but now is separated and destroyed, makes me uncomfortable.
I’m glad I’m feeling this discomfort because it means I’m recognizing my privilege. Back home, I always criticize white and non-black people of color for ignoring or denying their privilege over me, whether intentionally or not. The fact that I have recognized that means that I can use that privilege to my advantage on behalf of the communities I am serving here in Cape Town.
After a Week in Cape Town by Jayla Pruitt, Maymester 2018
After being in Cape Town for about a week now, I have loved every bit of it. So far, my favorite experience in Cape Town was working with my internship on Thursday. I am working with the YMCA Youth Development. With the YMCA we go to one of the schools during the school day to teach kids about economics. Then after school is out we go back to the YMCA and help the kids with their homework, sports, arts & crafts, music and more things. On Thursday, a few people in my group and I went to a local school in Athlone, Cape Town. At this school we were able to teach fifth graders about economics.
It was shocking teaching fifth graders about economics because I did not learn anything about economics until my senior year of high school. Economics was extremely confusing to me so, for a fifth grader to be learning about economics and the kids understanding the basics of it was interesting to see. After teaching the kids about economics, we went back to the YMCA where kids were showing up to have fun. I met a young girl named Carmen at the YMCA that stuck with me until my time there ended that day. We played basketball, did a group activity game, and made a paper boat together.
During all those activities, I was able to have fun and get to know Carmen. She is a shy young girl, but I hope within the next few weeks she will become more comfortable with me. Overall, my experience at the YMCA for the first week has been good and I am looking forward engaging with the children and creating bonds with them.
Overcoming My Discomfort by Rachel Walters, Maymester 2018
Walking onto the plane from London, England to Cape Town, South Africa, my first thought was, “dang I thought we were going to Africa not time traveling to the 1940’s ‘whites only’ section of Alabama.” Seven black girls with box braids coming in together and all we saw were white faces staring back at us. I could almost hear their thoughts, trying to work out how these black girls could afford to fly on this plane. We open our mouth and they realize that we’re American. Now I see them trying to justify in their minds that even though they are black, they must be able to afford this flight because they are American. For the first time in my life, my nationality outweighed my race.
I’m from a predominantly white suburb so coming into this abroad program, I was prepared to deal with high class, entitled white people. I was definitely worried due to the specific tensions that still arise between races in South Africa.
To say I was initially uncomfortable was an understatement. I felt so many eyes on me the whole time. I felt like I couldn’t touch the man sitting next to me with fear that he would flinch at the contact. I felt like I had to speak to my friend next to me quietly and to the flight attendant with a sickly sweet politeness in order to prove to these white people that I deserved to be on the plane.
As I reflect on this experience, I can’t help but slap myself on the wrist for trying to be someone I’m not in order to try to prove something to these people who could care less about me.
As I go forth on this trip I hope I perfect the balance between not being “too American” and not trying to compromise who I am in order to appear to be a different way to other people in this country.
I Got to Know Myself Better in Austria by Rian Pettit, Maymester 2018
I had the opportunity of studying in Vienna, Austria for Maymester 2018. I learned about cultural memory in the city. My days consisted of excursions to museums, memorials, and other sites dedicated to Vienna’s history. Throughout the month, I was also able to meet and interact with locals, try Viennese food, brush up on my German, and connect with my peers. Although I will take everything, I learned in the classroom back home with me, the things that will stick with me the most are the things I learned about myself and the friendships I developed.
It’s hard to sum up everything I encountered during the entire month of June, but the experience was unlike anything I had ever done before. Not only did this global experience push me out of my comfort zone and give me a new sense of independence, but it also allowed me to see that studying abroad is not out of my reach as a first generation student. I am looking forward to seeing how this will affect my college career and other travel experiences in the future.
More Bonding, New Friendships by Jeremy Wright, Maymester 2018
Leaving the borders of my home allowed me to grow in many ways I never thought possible. Being able to learn the hidden knowledge of the Afro-Costa Rican history gave me insight into who I am and my existence in society back in the United States. Learning with people in a foreign environment allowed me to bond with them on different levels creating rich and lasting friendships.
Me? In China?! by Amahree Archie, Maymester 2017
Wow! A little black girl from Texas in China… Who would have THUNK!!!
A little over a month ago I had the amazing opportunity to visit China. While there, I gained great friendships, went on beautiful excursions, and even climbed three different mountains. Not in my wildest dreams did I ever think that I would have the opportunity to go on this trip.
When returning home, many people asked what was the one thing that I had learned while there. I would have to say that it taught me to never give up. There will be many times in our lives when we look to our left and our right and find there’s no one there but us to fight the fight. When placed in that position, I’ve learned, it’s time to do the work and climb to the top of the mountain.
I can’t even put into words what this trip meant to me especially on a spiritual level. I’m so grateful to God and of course the LCAE staff for giving me this amazing opportunity. It is official, I have been bitten by the traveling bug!
The Great Wall of China by Jennifer Eze, Maymester 2017
May 24, 2017, I set out for an adventure with so much fear and excitement in my heart. It wasn’t my first time traveling abroad, but it was my first time traveling abroad alone. Not to mention the fact that I was flying to a continent and country I had never been to or even imagined I would ever be in. To say I grew as a person exponentially in China is an understatement. The four weeks I spent there were some of the most challenging and frustrating, yet I had the most amazing experience of a lifetime. In one of my pictures posted, I’m pointing up to the sky, because I’m acknowledging God and all the blessings He poured over me during my journey. Amidst all the adversities and trials it took for me to be in China, He never left my side once and saw me through every fear I thought I had. I’m so thankful for everyone who helped me get to experience Beijing. This journey was definitely an experience that cannot be rivaled.
Should I Return Home to the States? by Christina Hampton Maymester 2017
My experience in Ghana was so incredible that I actually thought about missing my plane back to the states. I was able to travel to all parts of Ghana including Accra, Kumasi, Cape Coast, Togome Village etc… all while learning, creating and immersing myself in Ghanaian culture. I created yards of batik fabric, glass and clay beads, and ceramics as well as learning how to drum and dance to traditional West African music. The food there is heavy and spicy, just the way I like it. I tried fufu and goat light soup, banku and tilapia, red red garnished with kelewele, jollof rice, stew, plantain chips, and many more delicious traditional foods. Ghanaians are so welcoming and happy that the enjoyable vibes really over powered the sticky and extremely hot heat that I experienced. Being around so much joy and excitement really made me forget about the climate. One of my most memorable experiences was being able to visit and feel the Elmina and Cape Coast Slave Dungeons. These sites were breathtaking and thought-provoking. Being inside a genuine slave dungeon while overlooking the beautiful Gulf of Guinea was an emotional juxtaposition. While it is not as relaxing as sunbathing on the beach, it is more powerful. The chilling discomfort of seeing and touching the remaining artifacts of slavery is the best chance that humans have to learn from history. Having the opportunity to feel the gloomy chill of the dungeons instead of merely seeing a picture in a textbook provided me the opportunity to feel the gravity of the abominable slave trade.
From my time in Ghana, I have learned more about the world and myself. More importantly, I have begun finding my identity as an American and as an African. While there were many times where it was very apparent how American I was and looked, it forced me to acknowledge the very real impact that both influences had. I really do see myself in Africa and when I look up and see the painting I bought in Ghana on my wall, I am saddened, but I let it serve as a reminder of a place that I love and to which I will one day return.
After Being In China For One Week by Brianna Allen, Maymester 2015
I have been in Beijing, China for a week and a half now! I remember getting off the plane and the first thing that came to my mind was what the bathrooms were going to be like and am I going to be able to breathe in this air pollution? I must say the bathrooms were a struggle at first, but once I got used to it, it wasn’t too bad. During my first week I really enjoyed seeing all of the beautiful architecture of the sites of Beijing like the Tiananmen Square, the Temple of Heaven and Cuan Di Xia.
After being in China for a week I must say that Americans are very spoiled and you really do not realize it until you come to another country. I have realized how much water the U.S. wastes on the daily. We take it for granted because now that I am in a place where clean water isn’t easily accessible and I feel like I will have a greater appreciation for it back home. In our dorms we have shower cards so essentially our showers are timed because however much water we use deducts from our money on our card. This made me very appreciative of having the luxury in the U.S. to take showers for however long and when I go back to the U.S. I will have a greater appreciation for all of the little things in life like water and air–the things we do not think about on a daily basis.
My Favorite Thing About China by Thaïs Moore, Maymester 2015
China was challenging. Between the crowds of people and the pollution in the air it became a bit overwhelming. But it’s saving graces were the fresh fruit markets, the family style meals, and of course the climb to the Great Wall of China. No wonder the Great Wall is a part of the Seven Wonders of the World–it’s absolutely amazing. I was tired just getting to the wall–I can’t imagine trying to build it, brick by brick. The countless stories about the people who sacrificed their lives building this 4,000 mile divide between China and Mongolia is what stuck with me the most.
Sydney, I Have Arrived! by Danielle Lauren Smith, Maymester 2015
Isn’t that view amazing? I have only been on a plane twice in my life, the first time was to Atlanta for my 21st birthday and the second time was a 15 hour flight from Los Angeles to this beautiful place of Sydney, Australia. It was quite the experience and with God on my side the flight was smooth and the landing was spectacular. It is kind of amazing the feeling I received after landing in the airport. I felt as if I was in a new world. Sydney is so clean and crisp; it is quite the city. Being one of the few African Americans in the city I haven’t received crazy stares or points but rather there are people who have embraced my diversity and asked me many questions. The people in Sydney are very honest and blunt but some of the nicest and most cheerful people you will ever meet. I will be working with the Midnight Basketball organization this year and taking a class at Sydney University. Excited for the experience and excited for all the questions and answers and more than anything I am ready to begin my journey.
My Thoughts About South Africa After Three Days Here! by Denice Carpenter, Maymester 2014
Whoa! Is my first thought. It is so much to take in at once. First I will begin with the diversity of people living in Cape Town. When people mention Africa the first thing that comes to mind is Black. Individuals who are my color and darker. Yes, we discussed the diversity of South Africa before leaving America however it does not really hit you until you see it for yourself–Africans of every shade. That phenomenon amazed me–I didn’t know.
Next is the pure hustle! Soooo many people are hustling to make a living for themselves and for their families. It the way of life for many people. Everything is really fast paced in the city and you have to keep up. Before I came, I assumed things would be a little slower but it reminds me of New York. The area we are currently staying is very modern and has a huge mall with similar stores as in the US. Something that really strikes me is how so many “White” people live in this area and are mostly well off.
Be Safe!!! I am not sure if during the orientation they were trying to scare the crap out of us. Or just wanted to leave a lasting impression of how we need to be very cautious. However one thing that stuck with me is that we were told before going abroad was that because we are Americans, that makes us a target because its as if there are $ signs on our foreheads. We were even advised to hand over our belongings if we got robbed. The violence of some people living here can be tied into the shocking unemployment rate of 40% (this was a collective number of different parts of South Africa). I remember listening to one taxi driver and he mentioned how he moved from Zimbabwe to find work. He has been living here for about 3 years now and he never has time to really do anything else but work. Working is basically the way of life for many. I think to myself, will their hard work ever pay off? What do they get from the satisfaction of working so hard just to keep a roof over their heads and food in their mouths? Is that really living life to the fullest?
After attending a local bible study this morning I realized that yes, their life can be fulfilling. Many people have faith for better in life and to find their purpose, even if that means to fellowship with others as one in the presence of God or simply to smile and make someone’s day. Your purpose can be fulfilled each and everyday you are living. This experience is teaching me to appreciate who I am as an individual and the moments I share with others.
Hope in Cape Town by Denice Carpenter, Maymester 2014
We have been out of slavery in the U.S.A. for over 100 years and we still have oppression and injustice going on within our society. Apartheid ended just 21 years ago and has a long way to go. It is really hard for me to be settled about the entire thought process of peace and forgiveness when still today individuals are still living in horrible living conditions. I mean really how do all of those individuals living in townships feel. Are they in the mindset of peace and forgiveness? When will the land and property stolen from them be rightfully returned? Walking up and down the streets I saw people working not to save up for a fancy vacation, but to survive! They tell them that education is the way but is it truly brainwashing individuals to be submissive under the rule of those in control?
According to Google hope is defined as a feeling of expectation and desire for a particular thing to happen. Hope is what keeps a person going everyday, even in the lowest points of their life. It is an expectation that something may not happen right now at this moment but it will eventually change. Hope is what gave Moses, one of our study abroad leaders here, the courage to travel all the way to New York on less then $400 in order to find a job. Believing that he would soon return to South Africa and start up his company Southern Ambitions in order to create an income for not only himself, but for other young people as well. Hope is what keeps Moses’ employees believing in him when he tells them that he will not be able to pay them at the time, but will eventually. Hope in racial, economic and social equality is all that some individuals in South Africa have in order to continue living.
Reza, the Enterprise Development Manager of Shanduka Black Umbrellas made a statement that I live my daily life by. He mentioned that everyone was created for a purpose and asked us what our purpose was. I am a firm believer that we all have a purpose here on earth. We are like missing puzzle pieces that once we come together we create a clear image. Through each one of us understanding our own purpose we can then begin to come together in sharing a universal bond all throughout humanity. We are all working to support each other in the midst of all circumstances, knowing that we are all valuable to our environments. As the great Myles Munroe stated, “You weren’t born just to live a life and to die, you were born to accomplish something specifically,” he said. “Matter of fact, success is making it to the end of your purpose, that is success. … Success is not just existing, success is making it to the end of why you were born.”