After three Millersville students participated in the education abroad program this summer with the Office of Global Partnerships’ new affiliate, University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) in Durban, South Africa, they have been greatly inspired. Each student engaged in a service learning project abroad and has brought home stories and new ways to raise awareness about the issues in South Africa on campus.
The students who were in Dr. Suzanne Berry’s class, a visiting professor from UKZN last semester at Millersville, are putting together a shipment of clothes and related items to send to Durban. After Becca Zortman, a recent Millersville graduate, was inspired by Berry’s course on “Southern African Human Rights” to start this project, the students who studied abroad wanted to continue her endeavor.
“The credit for the clothing drive goes to Zortman, who completed Berry’s course and really wanted to do something to help those in the Durban area who struggle with poverty and the impact of the HIV-AIDS epidemic,” said Kirsten Bookmiller, director of Global Education and Partnerships. “She single-handedly got the word out for clothes and other kinds of donations. Now several other students from Dr. Berry’s course who went abroad as well as the campus Amnesty International Chapter are chipping in to store clothes and get the drive further organized. We are currently looking for financial donations to get nearly 40 boxes shipped over.”
Students claimed their experiences abroad were extremely memorable and are determined to raise awareness about the culture on campus and continue their service projects South Africa.
“I have a heart for Africa and South Africa, a heart for the poverty stricken, the homeless, the parentless and the unfortunate,” said Nicolle Nestler, a student who traveled abroad.
“If I am able and God-willing, I would go back to South Africa to work with a non-government organization to help bring the poverty level up and help people get their basic human rights that so many of them are not able to have. I would also consider working in an HIV and AIDS clinic, with an orphanage or with an agency that develops the needs of children.”
“Dr. Berry showed us so much that we would have never seen if we were just studying abroad,” said Mike Ondish, student. “She knew much more about the culture and taught us every time we went out with her. The country of South Africa has a rich and recent history that is very important to the present day economy. My time studying abroad was a life-changing experience.”
The Millersville-UKZN link has sent four students in the first eight months of the partnership. Two students are going to South Africa in the spring of 2008 and Millersville will be welcoming the first student exchange group from UKZN.
“It will be rewarding to see where these continued points of contact lead Millersville,” said Bookmiller. “It’s been really exciting, because we had not demonstrated student interest in South Africa before we established the link. Much of the credit goes to Dr. Berry’s course. She inspired them and generated a passion for South Africa in a way that Millersville could never have done through regular programming.”