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By Tammy Ford
Despite the cancellations of many study abroad programs at Simmons this year, nine women are headed to South Africa--one of the few 2011 travel courses not limited to Europe or United States. And we are excited about it.
Freshman Ava Salitsky is one of them--the youngest in a group whose members are drawn from many academic disciplines and social backgrounds. Salitsky is in the honors program majoring in political science. She took an African politics and government class with trip leader Dan Connell last fall. His passion for Africa was a huge influence in her decision to travel.
Although she is excited about the itinerary, she says she is unsure what she expects to get out of it. "I've taken so many classes on Africa. I'm afraid it will be nothing like it," she says.
Taylor Barge, a rising senior majoring in Africana Studies, says she loves to travel, her anxiety about the food and flying notwithstanding. Her eyes sparkle as she describes how college has ignited a passion for her African American cultural heritage. She is unsure where her original ancestors are from, so she wants to understand what it means to be "black somewhere else."
After seeing an advertisement for the study abroad trip in the hallway between the Fens and the Bookstore on the Simmons campus, Barge was hooked. She applied online immediately.
Classes she took with the second faculty advisor, Africana Studies chair Janie Ward, also helped Barge with her focus on race. She says she would like to compare apartheid to segregation in the U.S.
Asha Nair Noonan, who graduated this week with a communications major in integrated media and a political science minor, has a different reason for going to South Africa--she needed one more class to finish her minor.
Noonan says her first choice was Egypt, but with the violence that has erupted there she decided it would not be a wise choice. At that point, South Africa became a viable option. Her grin spreads across her face as she says that she knows now that South Africa is "just as good if not better than Egypt."
Not all the students are undergraduates, however.
Crystal Rizzo is a grad student in Gender and Cultural Studies. Her excitement about the trip spills into her words: "I was a teacher's assistant in a Nelson Mandela program, and it really sparked my interest." Her focus is on South Africa's progressive constitution and on international relations.
All say they are excited to be learning about the culture and about the current state of human rights in South Africa--the focus of the course and what all will write about while there. And they say they expect this trip to give them a significant amount of personal growth.
"It is a great opportunity," Barge says.