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Beyond the classroom: Students experience South Africa

August 7, 2003

Photo of Black Studies professor Johnetta RichardsIn one of SFSU's most far-reaching travel study classes, Black Studies Associate Professor Johnetta Richards and five of her students recently returned from a month-long visit to South Africa.

"Our students have always had a strong interest in seeing and experiencing what we were teaching in class. Now they are truly becoming international citizens," said Richards, who began taking students to Africa six years ago.

"The students spent the spring learning about the history and the culture of South Africa and then they experienced life in Africa," said Richards, referring to a course on travel and study that students were required to take last semester.

The students, who paid their own transportation and housing costs, took part in community service projects and attended classes at the University of the Free State in Bloemfontein as they learned about South Africa's history, political environment and social issues.

The students also worked on service projects such as leading therapeutic music and dance sessions for AIDS orphans, building awareness for AIDS prevention and conducting small-scale surveys of housing needs.

To prepare for the trip, nursing student Rachael Orlando completed a 20-page research paper on the impact of HIV/AIDS in Africa.

"I found that the illness has had incredibly devastating effects on the children, families and working class of Africa," said Orlando, who hopes to someday work in worldwide HIV prevention.

Orlando said she believes the trip opened new doors.

"I will use this experience to educate people on the realities of health care and the lack of resources internationally," she said. "Hopefully I can also inspire a couple of my classmates to rise to the challenge of providing health care internationally and ensure that standards of care extend beyond the borders of America."

While in South Africa the students visited Johannesburg, Soweto and Durban and spent time in the neighboring countries of Swaziland and Lesotho.

The class returned to the U.S. earlier this month, but the students left behind a tangible reminder of their visit -- they each donated a suitcase filled with books, educational toys and sports equipment to community organizations.

"You should see the smiles on the faces of the people with the organizations," said Richards. "I can't think of a better way to help the children in Africa long after we have gone home."

-- Ted DeAdwyler


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Last modified August 7, 2003, by the Office of Public Affairs