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Left to right standing: Haley Costen, Ayana Auburg, Laura Chandler, Sarah Kinney. Seated: Lindsay Stokes, Ahalia Persaud.
By Kaylie Flannigan, Rachel Goldberg,Christine Gronberg, Taylor Rapalyea, Mary Ying
Ahalia Persaud, a junior, is a Sociology major and Arts Administration minor who looks forward to a new experience in traveling to South Africa. Persaud first heard of the travel course through a class on African politics with Professor Connell last year, in which he discussed his work in Eritrea and mentioned the trip.
She immediately knew she wanted to go, but her plans were foiled by the failure of the 2013 trip to launch due to under-enrollment. When a second chance presented itself, Persaud became especially enthusiastic about exploring how art serves as a vehicle for political, social and cultural movements, shaping the identity of people living in the "rainbow nation."
Sarah Kinney, also a junior, is a Journalism major who has been writing ever since she was a kid on the playground. She delved into her passion for telling stories through words after interning at a hometown newspaper and is now preparing to assume the position of editor-in-chief for the Simmons Voice.
Aside from a couple of minor excursions to Canada and Greece, Sarah does not consider herself an experienced globetrotter. By going to South Africa, she is hoping to expand her perspective of an unfamiliar world and stretch her ability to cover topics that are not so close to home. When asked what to expect, Kinney says that she really has no idea - but that's the point. She goes into it open to whatever happens, with no expectations.
Haley Costen is a rising senior and a Journalism major and works for the school newspaper - the Simmons Voice. She says she is very excited about the trip and says that it will be cool to travel to another country and learn about their culture.
Costen learned about the trip and immediately became interested while writing a piece for the Voice. She also saw photos from an earlier trip in a feature writing class she took with Professor Connell.
Costen says her high school education didn't satisfy her curiosity about Africa, especially South Africa, and she is eager to learn more about the ongoing human rights struggle, particularly the work of the Gender Commission.
She is also hoping this trip will help her find her niche in writing and looks forward to improving it there as she tries to shed some light on social justice issues in South Africa today. This is a first for her in many ways, but she says she is ready to embrace it.
Ayana Aubourg, a sophomore studying International Relations with a focus in Human Rights, can hardly wait to arrive in South Africa and immerse herself in its rich history and see, in person, all she has studied in class.
South Africa is close to Aubourg's heart, as she is passionate about freedom and human rights. She loves the example that South Africa offers to the world: Everyone working together to reach a common goal and succeeding. She says it is an inspiring story that many can learn from.
Aubourg also expects to do quite a bit of learning. She looks forward to improving her writing skills as she blogs about her experiences and the people she meets along the way. Never one to pass up a challenge, she hopes this trip pushes her to be a close observer of the human condition and pick up on the subtle signs that provide insight into a person's true nature.
Expecting more than just an informational tour, Aubourg would like nothing more than to connect with people. A chance to bond with the rest of the Simmons group as well as find friends in the people she meets in South Africa would be the highlight of her experience.
It is her hope that her stay in South Africa, however brief, will contribute to her understanding of social justice. Cultural understanding is also a principle guiding Aubourg and she takes it upon herself to absorb as much as she can about people around the world.
She has traveled to the Dominican Republic to teach English and Physical Education at a partner high school and is currently part of community and campus organizations such as a Simmons College Amnesty International group and Youth Against Mass Incarceration.
Aubourg has found her passion and wishes to pursue social justice in the years to come.
Laura Chandler, a junior, is a Business Management major and Political Science minor, who is interested in human rights and is pursuing a career in the non-profit sector. This will be her first extended travel abroad, and she is very excited to take full advantage of the opportunity to travel internationally and tour South Africa.
Laura has a love for education and is excited to apply her classroom knowledge to the real world. She says that being in South Africa will provide new depth and understanding to the country and its history and culture that a textbook and class lectures cannot offer.
Laura looks forward to immersing herself in a new culture. She wants to speak with different people and learn all they are willing to share. She hopes that walking the streets and conducting in-depth interviews will allow her to understand the paradox of South Africa: the rich thriving next to the poor, the light shining next to the dark. She says she is eager to learn about both the good and bad there.
She is especially interested in examining South Africa's education system. Laura is passionate about addressing educational disparities in the United States and hopes to work with a non-profit to help decrease the achievement gap. Traveling to South Africa will provide her a unique opportunity to examine a different education system in order to apply her knowledge to her future endeavors in community work.
Lindsey Stokes' dream is to be a correspondent for CNN, so when she stumbled upon a tiny ad on the Simmons website for the 2014 South African trip, it seemed like a perfect opportunity to test out her international reporting skills.
Even though her going on the trip depended on whether she would be able to afford it, she says she was determined to make it work somehow. "I knew I was going to do whatever it took to go," she says.
The junior Communications major has never been abroad but is excited and nervous to experience the unknown.
"Everyone keeps asking me [if I'm excited], but the fact is I really don't know what to expect yet," she says, beaming.
One of the things she's looking forward to the most is the traditional hike up Table Mountain in Cape Town. While her mother has never traveled internationally, her father has spent time in Argentina and raised Stokes to be a tried and true hiker and runner.