As an incoming freshman, I never imagined that I would participate in a learning abroad program. I had never traveled outside the US before, and visiting another country with a group of strangers seemed crazy to me. But somehow in my sophomore year, the South Africa trip peaked my interest, and I’m glad it did.
Having known nothing about South Africa and its history, I had a lot of prep work to do for the trip, but Dr. Banerjee provided the class with great resources for learning the country’s history and culture. South Africa struggled tremendously with inequality during the apartheid era, and some of this racial segregation still exists as we saw when we visited some of the townships.
The trip consisted of both academic and recreational activities. Four of the days were considered academic days, where we visited companies such as PepsiCo, Johnson & Johnson, Pick n’ Pay, and the Port Authority. The business meetings highlighted the primary strategies for being successful in the South African market, and they were conducted by representatives of the firm, including the founder of Pick n’ Pay. In addition to the company visits during the academic days, we also visited the University of Pretoria, where we collaborated and discussed a case study on South African banks. Interacting with the students in the classroom environment was really a great experience, but it was also nice to talk with them afterwards at the braai, which is essentially a South African barbecue.
Aside from the academic side of the trip, we were able to have a lot of fun touring the country. One of the most memorable experiences on the trip was climbing Table Mountain. It may have been a tough climb, but not everyone can say that they climbed one of the seven wonders of nature in the world. In addition to Table Mountain, some of the other highlights of the trip included seeing penguins at Boulders Beach and visiting Kruger National Park, where we saw elephants, rhinos, lions, giraffes, and many other animals in their natural habitat.
Even if it is solely for the beautiful views, I strongly recommend this trip to any students that have the opportunity to go. I may have entered South Africa with a group of strangers, but I returned home with a group of friends.