In reflecting back on this experience I feel it is only appropriate to start from the beginning as this adventure has truly come full circle. When I initially signed up for the class, I expected to get very little out of it culturally. I thought this would just be a fun trip with friends and one that I couldn’t do alone. However, I was in for a rude awakening as Peter loaded us up with South African history from day 1 of the semester. In all honesty, I dreaded watching hour long documentaries each week and writing blogs. I found them tedious, annoying, and unnecessarily time consuming. After all, I wasn’t going on this trip to learn about South African history… I just wanted to go to
South Africa. In retrospect, I know I would never have been able to fully appreciate this journey had I not learned about apartheid, the aftermath of it, and those involved in it.
I had a similar revelation towards the service projects we developed during the semester and then worked on while in South Africa. I know I’ve mentioned it multiple times already, but being given the Internet and Worldreader project was slightly disheartening as Alison and I encountered roadblock after roadblock, preventing us from completing it. I was slightly bitter that other members of the class were given more feasible projects such as the gardens while I was given something that seemed impossible. However, going into the communities and working on building something sustainable for them was one of the most gratifying experiences I have had thus far. Not only did I feel as though I was doing something impactful and truly meaningful for the community members, but I was also able to build connections and friendships with those supporting the Tippy Toes Foundation as well as those within our group.
I can safely say that Tamarin is one of the most kindhearted, strongest, and most determined women I have ever encountered. The difference she is making in the lives of the children of the Vaajtie school is undeniable. Her enthusiasm and dedication towards helping those in need reminded me why I want to be in the healthcare field. She reminded me that often the aspects of our lives that hold the most value are also the parts of our lives that are the hardest to maintain and accomplish, however, the truly important things are worth working for.
To pinpoint one take home lesson from my time throughout this experience is simply not possible. I have learned and grown as a person in innumerable ways. I have experienced things that are actually once in a lifetime. I can now say I’ve built a soccer field, visited Nelson Mandela’s jail cell, played with lion cubs, swam with sharks, and so much more. I’ve seen the wealthiest and most beautiful areas in South Africa as well as some of the most dangerous and impoverished, and I’ve interacted with all races and classes of people within these areas. From all of these experiences I’ve gained something new that I could not have acquired without taking this journey. Despite my overwhelming sadness in leaving South Africa, I try to remember how amazing this experience has been. Hopefully, this is not the last time I am able to visit this country which has had such an impact on me– after all, there is still so much more to see.