A group of six Clarks Summit University students recently traveled to Cape Town, South Africa, to study and engage with local culture. The trip was led by professor Jonathan Strayer and Dr. Darryl Meekins, director of CSU’s South Africa intercultural studies program.
A New Cultural Perspective
Students earned credits in a cultural immersion class taught by Meekins and an educational and devised theater class taught by Strayer. As they enjoyed hands-on experience with local culture they gained a new perspective and heart for people in other cultures.
Stephanie Fry, a first-year student in CSU’s Early Childhood Education program, says, “This experience helped me realize that every culture is unique and valuable.” She continues, “It is an experience you may never encounter again, and it has the power to change your life if you let it.” She also noted the value in stepping out of one’s comfort zone and embracing this experience to its fullest.
An Immersive Approach
CSU recognizes the importance of cultivating a multifaceted perspective in this diverse, globalized world as an asset for life as well as many careers. Meekins explains, “We provide not only the classroom teaching but an immersive approach that allows students to not only hear and read about significant events but see, touch and feel them firsthand. It is not simply about visiting another culture or country as a tourist, but understanding it as an insider.”
Studying abroad during a student’s undergraduate years provides the chance to be immersed, “in an experience that will help them be exposed to, learn from, process with and broaden their horizons alongside their peers,” noted Meekins. This broadening occurs when a student is able to interact with people from different backgrounds, religions, ethnicities and nationalities.
Strayer echoed this, saying, “It is vital for our students to be exposed to other cultures, new peoples and differing perspectives to form a broad, more global understanding of the vast world in which we live—a world that seems to be getting smaller and smaller as new technologies allow us to communicate and travel around the globe with ease. Because of increased media and networking in business, ministry, technology, the arts and education, our students are interacting with people from other cultures now; they aren’t waiting until they graduate.”
Studying in South Africa is offered as a full-semester, intercultural immersion opportunity as well as concentrated short-term learning experiences for CSU students.
The next trip to South Africa is scheduled for August 3-17, 2018. Peggy Wright, associate professor of science, will teach field biology and ecology in addition to the cultural immersion course taught by Meekins.
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Jessica Eddy is a junior in CSU’s Communications-Writing program from Worthington, PA.