ISA, Interstudy‘s partner organization, has had an awesome student blog since 2009. The ISA student blog has served as an open forum for ISA students to explore all aspects of the study abroad experience through stories, photos, and other media, and will now serve the same purpose for Interstudy too! The goal of the blog is to help prospective students get an inside view of what life is like as an ISA/Interstudy participant so they can make an informed decision about which study abroad location best suits their academic and personal goals. Read more
It’s opening day at Fenway Park in Boston, and there’s a buzz of excitement as a new season of America’s greatest pastime begins. Sure the home team isn’t doing so well yet, but any true Red Sox fan would tell you, “they’ll get better”. Baseball holds a special place in American history, as does Fenway Park itself, which is celebrating it’s 100th anniversary this year.
I asked two of Interstudy‘s Resident Staff members in Ireland and South Africa about favorite pastimes in their countries. Here’s a look at what you should expect to see on TV at a local pub near campus: Read more
Interstudy mentors are making headlines in South Africa. We, of course, had to share! We’re proud of John and Kline for their great work – congratulations to them both!
- John Flanagan, a former Interstudy student mentor, was awarded the Mandela Rhodes scholarship for the completion of his Masters degree in Agriculture at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg. The Mandela Rhodes scholarship is awarded partly on academic performance, but to a greater extent on character, including leadership abilities, a love for people, reconciliation, entrepreneurship and education.
- Kline Smith, a current Interstudy mentor on the University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg campus, has changed the face of his university. Now who can say that every day? Kline, an Honours Drama and Media Student, won a Tagline Competition hosted by the Marketing Unit. According to the University, is contribution will be acknowledged by generations to come as the words “Inspiring Greatness” are embedded in the brand essence of this great Institution.
Local student mentors are an integral part of the Interstudy Program in Southern Africa. Mentors are carefully selected by the Interstudy staff to offer a local student perspective for our students. Mentors are usually in their second or third year of university and are able to offer advice to students on campus life, local culture, and general orientation questions.
There was a point in my time here when a lot of my American friends back home were asking me questions like, do I see lions and zebras everyday on the way to class? Or, do I live hut? I guess you can say that a stereotype about South Africa is that the people there are of the jungle and very tribal. So far I have not seen this stereotype; the people and environment of Pietermaritzburg is very urban. Some stereotypes South Africans have about Americans are that we have a lot of money, that take-out food is a big part of our diet, and in my case as a black American, that we’re all rappers. Here, stereotypes of other cultures are acknowledged but rarely used negatively. So far I have not encountered negative uses of stereotypes, of any culture, not just Americans. If I could bring anything back from here to the US, it be the friendliness and openness of the people. You don’t really see that a lot in New York City, mostly because people are always in rush to get somewhere. The people here are more relaxed and I really appreciate that.
I’d say that the most interesting local attraction here in Pietermaritzburg is the Tathum Art Gallery that’s right in town. It’s about a 10-15 minute ride from campus in a Kombi bus. My encounter with the art gallery really started when I decide to feel adventurous during registration week, and register to take art history. I never took an art history course back in the US, nor did I pay a lot attention to fine art. After visiting the Tathum, I don’t know why I didn’t appreciate fine art more. The Tathum Art Gallery consists of various arts and crafts of the artists from Pietermaritzburg and from neighboring provinces. The works of craft in this museum are very different from the kinds I’ve seen in New York, in places like the Metropolitan Museum of Art . One piece that was most memorable to me was titled Chandelier; the work hung in the Contemporary craft exhibit at the Tathum. The materials it was made out of were beads, wire, and waste material. The use of lighting, with a great mix of colors, made it look like a chandelier you’d see in a house on a tropical island. This work hangs at the entrance to the gallery and does a great job of inviting visitors. In town, the Tathum Art Gallery is not openly visible. It is a local attraction that is quiet in its outer appearance to the public. In that sense; I think this art gallery overall shows that Pietermaritzburg is quiet on the surface but beautiful when you get to really explore it.
On a Wednesday night, we head out to karaoke at the Kicks and Whistles sports bar. I’m with my two ‘mates’ as they say in Pietermaritzburg; Chuck from Washington D.C. and our friend Shelia, a local. We get to Kicks and Whistles the musical energy amongst the people was amazing, it always was. It was on karaoke nights every week at local pubs, that I discovered some of the incredible musical talent within this small town. Chuck and I performed ‘I Got a Feeling’. The crowd danced in front of us like we were MC’s over turntables, or The Black Eyed Peas themselves. I enjoyed adding to their good time. They were happy to have us. I felt very connected with the local South Africans that night through my love of music. Each day at the Pietermaritzburg campus, I learn more about the musical talent that exists beneath a student body of future scientists and mathematicians . This knowledge helps me settle into my other studies and to South Africa itself. My goal for now is to flow with the rhythm of South Africa the way water beautifully flows from the falls of Howick, and I am succeeding so far.
I’ve been home for three and a half weeks now, and sometimes I think that the five months I spent in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa was all some wonderful kind of dream. I mean, how could I have squeezed so much into so little time? Student teaching in a township, making tons of ceramics (which, by the way, were great gifts for friends and family) hiking into Lesotho, cage-diving with the Great Whites, doing the world’s highest bungee jump, hiking Table Mountain (twice) trail rides on horseback – this could not have been my life. But every now and then I wake up and think I’m back in the dorm at UKZN, or try to text a South African friend, and it dawns on me that it really did happen…I really did just have the most incredible experience! Read more
The departure day gets closer, and my anticipation rises like the sun on a perfect summer day. Who knows what to expect, I just can’t wait to get there.
I wish to meet local South Africans and have memorable experiences with them. I intend learn a lot from the town of Pietermaritzburg and from classes taken at the university. For the most part, in my time overseas, I hope to gain new and valuable skills to bring back to the US. Skills that will help the pursuit of a successful career. South Africa will help me build more confidence in myself and my abilities.
Challenges and opportunities might revolve around differences in culture and language, and aspects of the everyday life. All specific opportunities and challenges will become clear over time after arrival in the city. A friend who had studied abroad gave me a good tip upon to her return to the US. She simply said to sit back and enjoy the ride, and on it there will be good and bad. This is the beauty of the traveling experience. With that being said, I am prepared to put my plane on autopilot and open myself to this intellectual and emotional journey.
Just a mere half hour from Pietermaritzburg is a little town that, while well-known in the surrounding area, remains undiscovered by most tourists. The town is Howick, home to many small cafes and beautiful shops, and most notably Howick Falls, a one hundred meter water fall that is said to be one of the most spiritual places in the world, one that still draws people to the God said to live behind the falls. Part lion, part snake, and part bird, this God receives many offerings of fruit and tokens of respect from the locals who believe in it. Read more