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Study Abroad and Domestic Study Away

Notes from Abroad: Kanoe in South Africa

Notes from Abroad is a new feature on the Off-Campus Programs website, in which we highlight small snippets of a student’s experience.  This week’s feature is from Kanoe Montano ’18 a Psychology and Studio Art double major and a minor in Spanish currently studying abroad with AIFS in South Africa.

Being abroad for this short amount of time in South Africa has opened my soul. Not just my eyes, but my soul.  There are two particular experiences that unlocked my newfound passion for social justice and standing up for what is right, rather than what is easy.

During orientation Stellenbosch University selected Matie buddies to help international students and serve as personal guides and mentors during our transition into the various cultures within South Africa, The Western Cape, Stellenbosch and Stellenbosch University. These were some of the best students I ever had the pleasure of interacting with. One in particular was Nomzamo, Nomzee for short.  She took Qiaira, McKenzy and me under her wing within the first two weeks of us being on campus. She invited Qiaira and me to lunch at her house with her friends where she made chakalaka and pap with us.  At first it seemed like a rather surface level interaction but soon that impression was proven wrong.  She and her friends had been part of the 2015 and 2016 student protests that were both traumatizing and empowering.  They told us some heartbreaking stories about their journeys at Stellenbosch and gave us insight as to the disgusting discrimination and rampant racism that students of color, specifically black students battle with everyday.  In that moment I learned, being the only non-black person in the room, I needed to shut up.  I do so much talking. I talk all the time: about myself, my life, my friends, small observations, stupid questions, but this was the perfect time to shut up. Shut up and listen.  I listened and learned and gained some of the greatest mentors and friends I could have never imagined I would ever deserve.

Then later on in the term I had the opportunity to travel to the Cederberg Mountains with the AIFS group of american students for a weekend. This was the first trip of the year and McKenzy and I got to go hiking, swimming in rivers, and fight off baboons. It was a weekend full of beauty and heart.  I fell in love with the raw natural character of South Africa, a place where my Colorado roots were twitterpated.  There is so much about the landscape of South Africa that reminds me of the mountains in Colorado and the oceans that kiss the capes in California. It is beautiful on the outside with so much amazing fresh food and lively festivals every weekend, but on the inside South Africa is the most unequal country in the world.   Seeing South Africa has inspired me to be more active in making the world a better place.  I promise myself to shut up when listening is more powerful than speaking. And when I do speak I should be asking provocative critical questions and using my privilege to fight for the underrepresented and the oppressed. I have a fire in my belly to do MORE for the world. and I cannot  wait to learn more. 


Thank you to the donors of my scholarship for helping me with this journey and for being part of my journey to becoming better global citizen. 

Kanoe Montaño