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Global Outreach: Studying Abroad Changes Ray Watson's World View

May 5, 2008

UAlbany student Ray Watson studies abroad in Africa

UAlbany senior Ray Watson visited with children at several orphanages while studying abroad in Durban, South Africa. (Photo, courtesy of Ray Watson)

University at Albany senior Ray Watson will never forget the three-year-old he met while studying abroad in South Africa.

"He was in so much pain," said Watson, a history major from Rockland County, N.Y. The child was suffering from AIDS and living at the Edith Benson Babies Home for orphans. His weakened body was rejecting food and medicine. "As he stared into my eyes, it was like he was saying, 'Do something; don't let this happen to me or anyone else.'"

The visits were part of a service learning course Watson took for academic credit through UAlbany's study abroad program at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. He also visited Thokomala Children's Home for orphans ages three to 16 and Cato Manor, a Durban settlement of 30,000, where people suffer disproportionately from HIV/AIDS, unemployment, crime and lack of basic housing.

Watson returned from South Africa transformed by the suffering and poverty witnessed during his five-week experience. "I felt that no moral being could allow this injustice to continue. We have a collective responsibility to the plight of the poor in foreign countries," said Watson, a 2008 recipient of the President's Leadership Award for Community Service.

In fact, Watson was so moved by the experience, he plans to return to South Africa to teach English and HIV/AIDS awareness. In the meantime, he is encouraging other students to take advantage of the study abroad opportunities at UAlbany. While his experience didn't necessarily change the world, it certainly changed his world. And it may just change others', as well.

Three UAlbany students will study abroad in Durban this summer. This is just one of the many study abroad opportunities available to UAlbany students.

Related Links:
Study Abroad
Department of History

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