Sunday, February 2, 2014

Notes from Abroad: Starting My Semester in South Africa

Taken at the Namibia-South Africa border in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park. 
Prof. Dianna Shandy to the left and Jonathan Goh '15 (who was also in her Fall 2011 FYC) in the middle. 
Four weeks ago I packed my bags, exchanged some overly emotive texts with friends, hugged my parents goodbye at Newark-Liberty International Airport, and swapped winter for summer. I landed in Cape Town, South Africa, two days later to begin my semester abroad. I am here as part of a program called Globalization, the Environment and Society, a study abroad program Macalester runs in consortium with Pomona College in California and Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania. 

As an Environmental Studies and Geography double major, I was drawn to the program because of the academic opportunities it offered me. I am having one-on-one conversations with renowned climatologists and urban geographers at the University of Cape Town, taking Honours level courses, and beginning my independent study project under the watchful eye of an expert researcher. While my own research question is still being crafted, I plan on studying how sustainable agricultural practices can be applied to Cape Town to ensure food security for marginalized urban communities.

Taken on the walk to the Cape of Good Hope, the most southwestern point on the African continent.
Gratuitous gleeful post-hike photo, with the added benefit of having Table Mountain in the background.
Lessons I learned over the past five semesters at Macalester have been invaluable in helping me to contextualize my experience thus far. It is so exciting to be engaging with issues of internationalism and multiculturalism in a country with as much diversity and history as South Africa. My personal reflections were facilitated by Professor Dianna Shandy from the Macalester Anthropology Department, who joined us for the first three weeks of the program. She helped us to examine the broad themes of globalization, the environment, and society through the lens of her own area of expertise—migration and the displacement of people. What made my interactions with Prof. Shandy all the more special is the fact that she was also my first-year course professor in Fall 2011, when I took her class Refugees & Humanitarian Response. From the ground level of Carnegie to outdoor lectures at the Namibian-South African border, it feels like Professor Shandy and I have come full circle. 

In between all this academia we have fit in a lot of sightseeing, eating, walking, and photo ops. Some of our especially notable experiences were seeing wild penguins at Boulders Beach, walking along the Cape of Good Hope, hiking up Lion's Head Mountain, visiting the Migrant Labor Museum in the Llandwe township, and taking a weeklong field excursion to the Kalahari Desert, where we saw cheetahs, giraffes, and a lioness with three cubs.

It has been an amazing program so far, one that I expect will only improve over the next five months.

- Lucy Kane '15

Jackson Heights, NY  

Panorama taken from the base of Lion's Head Mountain trail