Ashley Ikwuagwu, a pre-med/human development and family sciences senior, will be honored tonight with the Student Legacy Award at the Sweatt Symposium on Civil Rights. During her time on campus, she has dedicated her efforts toward fostering inclusive, welcoming spaces for all her fellow Longhorns. After graduation, she plans to attend medical school to pursue a rewarding career in pediatric medicine. We caught up with her to learn more about her study abroad trip to South Africa in 2018, and how she gained a broader worldview of healthcare systems while interning with the Cape Town health department.
Programs and activities: Afrikan America Affairs, Black Health Professions Organization, Global Medical Training, Brian L. Fontenot Foundation, Council for Diversity Engagement, Texas Orange Jackets
Adventure awaits…“Ever since New Black Student Weekend, upperclassmen have been preaching about studying abroad, especially the abroad programs within the DDCE. Combined with the rich history and culture of South Africa, I knew I had to come on this trip specifically.”
Wash, rinse, repeat…While adjusting to her temporary home in a foreign land, Ikwuagwu faced a new set of challenges amidst Cape Town’s water shortage. Although it took some adjusting, she fell into a new routine of two-minute showers and collecting water for other daily needs. “After a while, it really became second nature to go out of my way to conserve water, so much so that when I left, I saw my previous normal water consumption as excessive. Since being back, I’ve continued to watch my water consumption in smaller ways like turning off the water while I brush my teeth and not keeping the faucet running while I wash the dishes.”
No pain, no gain…Although this wasn’t Ikwuagwu’s first trip to Africa, she faced a series of firsts throughout the month-long journey. Looking back at her experiences, she’s most proud of scaling Lion’s Head Mountain and Table Mountain. When she reached the top, the rewards far offset the grueling upward battle. “I don’t know how to aptly describe my journey up the mountain, but I just felt alive. When I finally reached the top and saw the view—and my classmates surrounding me—I felt happy and accomplished. This was when it really hit me that I was in Cape Town and that I had the potential to do so many more amazing things while there.”
Off the beaten path… “A feature that I love about this program was that, along with the class, we were placed in internships in townships surrounding the city. I love that they are in the
townships because it gave us a reprieve from the tourist-centered city life and the chance to experience the real Cape Town.”
On-the-job training…When she wasn’t in class or exploring the great outdoors, Ikwuagwu was interning at a YMCA located in Athlone, a township on the Cape Flats. While working in the health department, she assisted patients and healthcare professionals. “I was given the opportunity to interact with people in the community via house visits and health promotion events. I also learned about the healthcare system of South Africa by visiting day clinics, schools and hospitals. It was inspiring to see how doctors and other health professionals find ways to provide healthcare to the patients. I plan to employ those same techniques when I am a physician.”