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Expanding Your Worldview through Study Abroad

Summer Study Tour of Africa participants in front of the South Africa Parliament building. (Photo, courtesy of Elizabeth Morrisey)

Study abroad experiences can have profound effects on a student’s global perspective. Such is the case for UAlbany senior Casie Addison who discovered, during her study abroad experience, the great inequities that persist in post-apartheid South Africa.

“I recall driving along a highway in South Africa from the airport. To my left were the formal houses or neighborhoods for the white Africans, and to my right were the townships and shanty houses where black Africans lived,” said Addison, of College Point, N.Y. “It’s still a vivid image, because I’ve never seen a poverty contrast like that in my life.”

Addison, who is African-American, said the trip, which also included Ghana, gave her a deeper understanding of her ancestry and made her more familiar with African culture.

The Summer Study Tour of Africa is organized by the U.S.-Africa Partnership for Building Stronger Communities Project, which was founded 13 years ago by School of Social Welfare Distinguished Professor Shirley Jones. Led by Associate Professor Robert L. Miller, Jr., Ph.D., the tour is part of a three-credit course that exposes students to the policies that govern social service provision in Africa.

“When you see people who, by our Western standards, are living with what seems to be nothing and yet are still genuine good people, it makes you reconsider the things you value and our purpose in life,” said Addison.

The group visited Robben Island, the prison that once held former President Nelson Mandela; toured The Vortrekker Museum and Freedom Park; experienced post-apartheid South Africa; and visited the Ghana AIDS Commission.

“Year after year, our students find that this study tour transforms their lives,” said School of Social Welfare Dean Katharine Briar-Lawson. “Its high-impact effects are personally life changing and career enhancing. We remain indebted to the numerous donors who invest in our students to ensure that they have this deeply meaningful learning experience.”

Among the group were second-year M.S.W. student Elizabeth Morrisey and UAlbany senior Hikaru Inuzuka.

Morrisey believed the experience helped her learn how social and economic problems are addressed in African countries. The Albion, N.Y., native wants to work to combat human trafficking, ideally for the State Department. Japanese native Inuzuka, studying political science and performance music, who also travelled to Africa with the group, felt it would serve as a great foundation for future work with an international organization like the United Nations.

As students move beyond this experience, they reflect on the profound impact it has on what they do today.

Jamie Dughi, an alum who earned her M.S.W. in May 2012 and is now a student at Albany Law School, said, “A year later, the life altering impact of traveling to South Africa with the illustrious Dr. Shirley Jones has only become more profound. A day has not passed that I do not think of the relationships formed, apply the many lessons learned, or reflect on the dedicated will of a country to stand in the face of oppression and change the course of history.”

Dughi said she feels fortunate to have studied at the School of Social Welfare, where global learning and understanding are not just a classroom focus, but a tangible reality.

 

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Educationally and culturally, the University at Albany-SUNY puts "The World Within Reach" for its 18,000 students. An internationally recognized research university with 58 undergraduate majors and 128 graduate degree programs, UAlbany is a leader among all New York State colleges and universities in such diverse fields as public policy, nanotechnology and criminal justice. With a curriculum enhanced by 300 study-abroad opportunities, UAlbany launches great careers. For more information about this globally ranked University, visit http://www.albany.edu/. For UAlbany's extensive roster of faculty experts, visit www.albany.edu/news/experts.shtml.