Our International Leadership Experience in South Africa

During spring break, many students travel to a tropical destination or head home to spend time with family and friends, but a group of 8 JWU students experienced the culture of South Africa. This alternative spring break international leadership experience sent these students half way around the world to see the most rural and developed areas of the country and learn about its government and leadership within its communities.

Jessica Grady, associate director, Student Involvement & Leadership, and Loren Intolubbe-Chmil, executive director of JWU Global, accompanied the students on this trip. Courtney Bynum, Alexis Kievning, and Joseph Butts, are 3 of the students who traveled to South Africa. In their words, read more about this leadership experience.

After a long day of traveling from Johannesburg, we were all introduced to our homestay families. The parents and their children were very welcoming and made us all feel at home. We all were informed about what to expect but it was still a culture shock. Some of the families did not speak English, so we had to find other ways of communicating. Our rooms were basic, but they provided us with our own bed. There was no running water, so we were given a bucket for us to bathe in and a bucket for us to use the bathroom during the night. In the village there were mostly women leading the households - a form of leadership that may go unnoticed.

When we visited the Apartheid Museum, it felt so alive. As we looked at the history of the Apartheid, it was easy to draw direct comparisons to the slavery and segregation in U.S. history, and even Nazi Germany. They all share the same principles of oppressing minorities and exploiting them for cheap or free labor. There was a room in the museum with nooses hanging up to symbolize how many people were given the death penalty for defying the segregation laws. Though it was sort of scary to see, it was also incredibly powerful.

We also visited two crèches, a preschool and a facility for disabled people. It was very sad to hear the struggles of the women working in these programs. They dedicate their lives to caring for children and the disabled - despite little to no pay. These women exemplify what true leaders are because they choose to serve others in their community even if they have nothing to gain from it.

After seeing how invested they are in bettering their community, it truly made us understand the meaning of “Ubuntu,” which means “I am because of you.”