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Making Connections in Southern Africa

Making Connections in Southern Africa

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Amanda Knipple (left) in the Namib Desert in Namibia
Amanda Knipple (left) in the Namib Desert in Namibia

Many students seek study abroad experiences they feel will enrich their lives and help them to gain an international perspective. Siena student Amanda Knipple, ‘17 is using her study abroad experience to do much more.

Amanda is studying in Namibia and South Africa with the Center for Global Education and Experience. Her classes involve discussions on the issues of nation building, globalization, and decolonization with an emphasis on social change and hands-on learning experiences. Over the course of the semester, she has lived in three different homestays: one in Johannesburg, South Africa, one in Windhoek, Namibia, and one in Outapi, in rural Namibia.

“I've learned a lot about development and how cultural perceptions are often not addressed when considering how to move forward with industrialization,” she said. “We often put progress ahead of the people of the nation and this can be harmful when trying to create a well-functioning nation.”

As a part of her program, Amanda has also been able to pursue an internship working with the Friendly Haven Center for Abused Women and Children. “My internship is a big connector to the local community,” says Amanda. “I've met amazing people working in a field that I really care about, combating gender-based violence, and just being around them and seeing the work that they do is very inspirational. Some of what I do for Friendly Haven gives me the opportunity to go out into the community and engage with local people about issues of gender-based violence and domestic violence. It has been a meaningful way to connect with people.” 

While Amanda saw openness to new experiences as a vital aspect of her study abroad experience, she did encounter some culture shock during her rural homestay in regards to gender roles and expectations. “My host mom was shocked that I did not pack any dresses or skirts for my stay,” said Amanda. “We learned a lot from each other, but always being on the same page was a little difficult.”

On the whole, this degree of personal connection has been a meaningful part of Amanda’s experiences abroad. She came to a greater understanding of this when she learned the South African word “ubuntu” from a speaker in one of her classes. “He described it as meaning "I am because you are," while others translate it as human kindness, humanity, or the universal connectedness of all people,” she said. “Hearing that word made me think about all the people that I've met on this trip and how much I've learned from them. It's a beautiful thing to see how interconnected everyone is and how much we are affected by each other, often in ways that we don't even see.”

- Jenna Kersten, Class of 2017