Study Abroad Program to South Africa Offered for Winter Session in Global Citizenship Effort

SMC winter break is a two-month limbo where students potentially fall into an academic slumber. There are other alternatives to sitting around eating left over holiday ham and watching television.

This winter session Professor Frank Dawson is taking thirty students to South Africa for a four-week long tour of beautiful scenery and cultural landmarks. While touring foreign country students earn six units of college credit.

For the majority of the trips students will be studying at the University of Cape Town. In the morning, participants will take classes in either psychology or communications.

Then during the afternoon, students will help build a sustainable food garden at an HIV orphanage. While not at the University of Cape Town, class will be much more informal. Class will be conducted on buses and in hotel reception rooms, Dawson said.

After leaving Cape Town, students will take a four-day photo safari in Kruger National Park, the world's largest game reserve. During the visit to Kruger, participants will stay in a tree house camp in the middle of the African bush.

The trip will also consist of museum tours to learn about South African history and culture.

Students will come in contact with Nelson Mandela's past at Robben Island, where he was held as a political prisoner for 19 years.

Although media isn't the main focus, Dawson said, students will learn about South Africa's rapidly expanding television and radio networks.

Under apartheid, the television infrastructure wasn't developed because it could potentially spread messages about equality.

Now that the regime has ended television and information can flourish. Television ownership has increased from six percent in 2004 to 16 percent in 2008, Dawson said.

Attending the four-week program cost $4150. Last year, a student sold his car to attend the same trip.

For those who still want to drive when they get home, there is the possibility of receiving federal aid through PEL grants.

"We want to take a diverse group of SMC students as possible," Dawson said. "But its comes up to who can get the money." Four of eight students who applied for PEL grants last year received them.

The study abroad South Africa is part of SMC's global citizenship initiative that hopes to educate students about other cultures.

After the trip, "students appreciate what [they] take for granted," Dawson said. "Students learn about a country, but themselves too."