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.
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.”
-Denice Carpenter, UT Maymester 2015
Photo from the Langa Township in Cape Town, South Africa
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.
-Brianna Allen (UT Study Abroad Student to Beijing, China)
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.
-Danielle Lauren Smith (UT Study Abroad Student to Sydney, Australia)
My Thoughts About South Africa After 3 Days Here! by Denice Carpenter
Whoa! Are my beginning thoughts. It is so much to take in at once.
Diversity of People
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. The guest speaker who got up to speak about diversity and culture used the 50 shades of gray as an analogy. As a human race we are all different shades of colors however we all come back to one race (Grey) or whatever color that means for individuals.
One striking moment was when we gazed into the eyes of each other. This was a powerful teaching exercise because it displayed how we are all apart of each other, one human race. This was described when we did the race exercise before leaving and how individuals identify with different races.
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 just keep up. Before I thought 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.
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 that we were told before going abroad was that because we are Americans, that makes us a target because it is like $$$ signs marked on our foreheads. We were even advised to hand over our belongings in the case of being robed. 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 potential?
After attending bible study this morning I realized that yes, their life can be fulfilling. Many people have faith for more 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.
-Denice Carpenter (UT Study Abroad Student in Cape Town, South Africa)