Thursday, November 12, 2015

Ubuntu - Don't You Want To?

During spring semester of my junior year, I spent my time in the city of Pretoria, South Africa as part of one of Fordham’s unique study abroad programs. Ever since high school when I learned that studying abroad was a possibility, I knew that it was something that I needed to do! Looking back, it was hands down the best decision I have made. 

I met an elephant in
Kruger National Park on a safari!
Fordham offers a service- learning program in South Africa called “Ubuntu”. Ubuntu is a South African philosophical term that technically means “the belief in a universal bond of sharing that connects all humanity”. In short, it means “I am, because we are”. This concept was really relevant to my experience in South Africa because of the service work I was doing. I worked in an Early Childhood Development Center in a rural community called Erasmus. I spent my time with two different classrooms of young children who spoke no English whatsoever. It was a challenge, to say the least, but I somehow formed incredibly close bonds with each and every one of the children.             

Another unique aspect of Fordham’s program in Pretoria is the community aspect. I lived in a house, about a twenty - minute walk from the University of Pretoria, with twelve other Fordham students. I only knew a couple of these people going into the program, but now they are all my closest friends. You form a very unique, genuine, and unbreakable bond while living with such a small group of people who share the same values about service and social justice as you for six months. 

All of the Fordham Ubuntu students traveling together!
There was no shortage of traveling during my study abroad experience. South Africa is a large country and is incredibly different depending on what city you are in. Although I loved living in Pretoria and am thrilled it was my home for six months, the city of Cape Town was by far my favorite city that I travelled to. What I thought was so interesting about Cape Town was how it was a city of contrast: affluence and poverty, ocean and mountains, historical and modern development. The beauty of this city is really indescribable. The Atlantic Ocean is in sight no matter where you are, as are the beautiful surrounding mountains. I noticed that Cape Town seems to have the positive elements of many of the major US cities combined. It has the palm trees, sunny weather and mountains of Los Angeles, but the cool air and steep roads like San Francisco. It is a bustling metropolis like New York City, but has the old stone buildings to remind everyone of its rich history like in Boston.

The beautiful Hout Bay in Cape Town
Although I am very happy to be back on Fordham’s campus, I long to return to South Africa one day. I cannot imagine winding down my experience with Fordham University in a better or more appropriate way. I am so grateful that Fordham exposed me to such a wonderful country with an incredible history and amazing opportunities to travel.

Written by: Abigail Collins

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