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Left to right: Mary Ying, Rachel Goldberg, Christine Gronberg,Taylor Rapalyea, Kaylie Flannigan.
By Ayana Aubourg, Haley Costen, Sarah Kinney, Ahalia Persaud, and Lindsey Stokes
Our group of 11 students is drawn from diverse disciplines and ranges from a first-year to graduating seniors. But all of us are excited, eager to learn and ready to finally set foot in South Africa, a country about which we have been learning for months. But our first reporting job is on each other. Here's a look at six of us.
While their peers are recovering from late night graduation parties, celebratory toasting, and obligatory family get-togethers, newly minted graduates Taylor Rapalyea and Rachel Goldberg will board an 8 a.m. flight bound for Johannesburg via London to study and report on human rights in South Africa's post-apartheid society, itself just getting over the fourth round of national elections since Nelson Mandela was chosen president in 1994.
Rapalyea credits the trip with giving her the push to start job-hunting early and to hit the ground running when she returns home. Upon returning, she will work for the Salem News. The most recent editor-in-chief of The Simmons Voice, she says this style of international reporting will be the crowning achievement of her journalism career. It will give her experiences she's never had before, and allow her to "do reporting that matters."
"I'm looking forward to finding something that speaks to me," Rapalyea says.
Like Rapalyea, Goldberg says her decision to go on the trip was motivated by her career aspirations.
She cannot wait to take everything that happens in South Africa and use it. Goldberg is interested in working on international human insecurity and her primary focus is issues of refugees and statelessness. While she does not know where she will end up, she is embracing the opportunity to learn from South Africa and put her degree to use.
Goldberg, an avid observer of diverse groups and a political science and economics double major, has been hearing about human rights situations around the world throughout her Simmons career. It was not until her time studying abroad in places such as Thailand and Denmark that she truly came to understand the emotional fortitude and cultural flexibility that was required to live in these unfamiliar environments. She says she is ready to take on the challenge once more.
She was drawn to the idea of studying in South Africa primarily because of the opportunity to engage with, and observe, a new culture. Growing up in Miami, Florida Goldberg has been among diverse groups of people her whole life. Going to a new country is a whole other level of exposure and immersion in someone else's way of life.
While some students are concluding their Simmons career with the trip, Mary Ying is beginning her career with it.
The only first-year, nursing student in the group of 11 students, Ying is in for a bittersweet treat. She has travel experience, having been to Europe and Asia with her mother for the past ten years. However, Ying has never been exposed to, had background or context knowledge of South Africa other than what she has seen in the media before this course.
She says that she heard about this faculty-led travel course through a study abroad info session and found it interesting. Mary has a general interest in world issues, participated in Model UN, enjoys writing and blogging and plans to work in non-profit healthcare, hoping that South Africa is a potential environment to work in the future.
Other students also see the trip as an opportunity to increase their knowledge of social justice.
As a political science and sociology major it's no surprise that sophomore Kaylie Flannigan wanted to take a human rights travel course to South Africa.
"Human rights is a bridge between my majors," Flannigan says.
She took interest in the trip after attending a study abroad fair in her freshman year and taking an African Politics class.
Flannigan has traveled abroad before, but this is her first time studying human rights abroad. She has always wanted to travel to South Africa, and plans to use the opportunity to improve her writing.
She says that in the future she would like to work for an international organization and that she is considering adding on a journalism minor.
"I want to be able to speak knowledgeably about the issues there," Flannigan says.
Christine Gronberg is a junior at Simmons College studying international relations with a concentration of human rights and a minor in journalism. She says she is excited to immerse herself in a new culture and environment. She remains inspired by how different communities of people joined forces to fight together to end apartheid.
Gronberg looks forward to visiting the U.S. Embassy in South Africa because of her interest in politics. She is eager to learn how the South African government interacts with people on a state level. She looks forward to learning more about the relationship between the government and local people. She hopes that this trip will help her gain knowledge about peace processes.
She was curious to know how the South African government is living up to the expectations of their constitution. Gronberg finds South Africa's historical narrative to be incredible and is one of the main reasons why she can't wait to visit the country.
The group will touch down around 9 a.m. local time on May 11, and after hours spent talking about what to expect, the students will see first-hand the state of human rights in South Africa.