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Study Abroad and Domestic Study Away

Notes from Abroad: McKenzy 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 McKenzy Kelley ’18 an African American Studies major and minor in Sociology and Anthropology currently studying in Stellenbosch, South Africa.

Howzit! My name is McKenzy Kelley and I am studying abroad in Stellenbosch, South Africa with the American Institute for Foreign Study (AIFS) program. I am a junior studying African American Studies and Sociology and Anthropology. I have been in South Africa for over a month now and still cannot shake the feeling that I am in another country.

The biggest reason I chose to study in South Africa with AIFS was because of the Learning for Sustainable Community Engagement (LSCE) course offered. The LSCE course is a service-learning program that offers students the opportunity to partake in a community development based fieldwork within the local township of Kayamandi. Every Monday we have a 6-hour class where we analytically discuss the social structures, poverty, and our part in community engagement and development within the context of South Africa. Then every Friday we go out to the primarily Xhosa speaking school, Ikaya Primary, to facilitate different art, physical, and social activities to a class of thirty 5 to 6 year olds. So far this course has been a transformative and enlightening experience that has allowed me to reshape my notion of community engagement and what making a difference actually means. However, one of the challenges I face with participating in the LSCE program is the idea of voluntourism. While I believe the LSCE course has good intentions, I cannot help but wonder if I am causing more harm than good with the work I do in this township.

While having the opportunity to study abroad comes with the excitement of excursions, having some of the most memorable experiences of your life and building friendships, it is also a time for you to learn more about yourself as you are in a new environment away from the comforts of what you know. Your reflections of your surroundings and the people around you are important in how you perceive the new culture you are experiencing.

I would like to thank Lake Forest College for providing me this amazing opportunity and Off Campus Programs for the support along the way. I am excited for what’s to come in the upcoming months. Wish me luck, it is going to be lekker!