Monday, June 17, 2013

AU Student Reflects on South Africa Study Tour

By Jennifer Holderman

Wees waar jou voete. Translated to the Afrikaans language this phrase means "Be where your feet are." In many aspects of my life, I have been given this very wise advice: be where your feet are, live in the moment, and soak in as much as you can. It was not until this May, when I had the opportunity to travel to Cape Town, South Africa for two weeks on a Literature Study Away Trip through Ashland University, that I fully understood the importance of being present in the moment. Physically being in Cape Town was one thing, but being there mentally and spiritually was something I never expected to have such a deep impact on my life. 

 A wild ostrich hanging out at the Cape of Good Hope, the most south-western point of Africa.
As an Integrated Language Arts major at Ashland, one of the classes I could choose to take was African Literature. While most students were registering for study trips to Ireland, Greece, and Costa Rica, the South African Literature trip intrigued me the most. The trip was in conjunction with the class, so this past spring I studied many books with South African authors. We read authors such as Mark Behr, Rayda Jacobs, and Sindiwe Magona and read about all kinds of lifestyles and cultures and people that make up South Africa. As the time neared, six AU undergraduate students were on board for the trip, as well as our professor, Dr. Dan Lehman, his wife Dr. Barbara Lehman, and five of her OSU Graduate and PhD students. 

Meeting with Sindewe Magona, author of Mother to Mother.

On May 17, our group of fourteen met at the Columbus Airport to begin our 8,229 mile journey to Cape Town. During our two weeks in the Western Cape we were able to experience a myriad of tourist-y things including Table Mountain, Robben Island, the V&A Waterfront, Stellenbosch Wineries, Greenmarket, and Long Street. However, our trip became much more than a tourist vacation. We came to learn, to be cultured, and to grow as individuals. We had the opportunity to go into the township of Langa and take a walking tour where we got to see and talk to children and residents; we met Sindiwe Magona and Niki Daley, well known South African authors; we got to visit Stellenbosch University and interact with students and faculty; we went to a traditional African church service in the township of Khayelitsha; and we ate traditional African food like ostrich and malva pudding. 

The township of Langa.
I personally experienced what it was like to be a minority in the very diverse country of South Africa. Most importantly, I was present in the moment. Every single second, I tried to remember where I was and tried to take advantage of what I was doing. By the end of the two weeks, I no longer had to try. I had completely immersed myself into South African culture and I am so fortunate to have had this experience. 

The whole group on Signal Hill with Table Mountain in the background.
As the cliche goes, "A picture is worth a thousand words," and I can tell you that my pictures are worth much more and hold much more than what can be captured through a lens. They hold memories and experiences of a lifetime that I have captured in my heart and soul. The pictures you see are only a glimpse at the wonderful world that is beyond the United States of America. As a twenty-two year old, white, female, middle-class student I am so blessed to have had this amazing experience. I have new plans, goals, and dreams to see the world and make a difference in the lives of others. I encourage readers to do the same, to see as much of the world as you can. Learn from it, grow from it, and most importantly, be where your feet are. 

On top of Table Mountain.
For more information about my trip, please visit my or email me at