I chose to go to South Africa for two main reasons; the program was service based, and the country had endless opportunities to hike and explore the outdoors.
Since starting at Scranton service has been an important part of my life, and my education. This study abroad program was structured so that the 20 American students from Jesuit Universities lived together under one roof. We took classes at The University of the Western Cape three days a week, and performed service the other two days. Service sites included teaching in elementary schools, working in a refugee clinic, domestic violence shelters, and a non-profit to help local start ups. In true Jesuit form, we came together once a week to reflect on our experience serving with these marginalized populations, learning from one another along the way how to become the best servant leaders, and global citizens, possible. These conversations included the pervasive inequality in South Africa, racial disparities, education, health care, and leadership. They were difficult topics to grapple with in an environment that juxtaposed the one we knew so well in America, but challenging conversations like these are necessary to grow as a global citizen and to better understand our place in society. Living in community was difficult at times because dishes magically appeared in the sink and people talked loudly late into the night, but I found the deep conversations and lasting friendships greatly overshadowed any potential drawbacks.
I taught science at a trade high school to students who had a learning disability. My time at this school provided me with an immense amount of gratitude for the education we receive here in America, especially in Scranton. I was able to learn so much about the education, political, and health systems in South Africa. Working in community with those in need was an eye opening experience, and one that has helped to shape my future job aspirations.
Outside of service and school I was able to do so much hiking and traveling! Cape Town is famous for its Three Peaks (Devil’s Peak, Lions Head, and Table Mountain) which were a short ride from our house. A midnight, full moon hike of Lions Head highlighted these hiking excursions. I was also fortunate to take a trip to Namibia for a week. A country that has five times as many dirt roads as paved, Namibia is one of the most picturesque and most naturally beautiful countries I have ever seen. We visited some of the largest sand dunes in the world, the Namib desert, and a petrified forest. Our spring break trip consisted of a flight to Johannesburg, a nature reserve in Eswatini (Swaziland), safari in Kruger National Park, and a power washing at Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe. Opportunities for exploration abounded in the southern portion of Africa.
The mountains rolled straight into the Atlantic Ocean. History intertwined itself seamlessly into a city that rivals anything in Europe or North America. Traveling 25 minutes from our house baboons, horses, and penguins skirted across streets. Traveling to Cape Town is by far one of the best decisions, and most challenging experiences, that I have ever had.
- Steven B., The University of Scranton - Class of 18’ & 21’
View the Program Info Session video here.