Reflections from South Africa
As Resident Director of Marquette’s South Africa Service Learning Program, I work closely with the University of the Western Cape (UWC) where Marquette students study while in South Africa. Marquette students learn and experience local history and culture through other young people at UWC, a university that was actively involved in the political struggle against apartheid. The university continues a culture of activism allowing young people, like Marquette students, to understand first-hand the environment which existed during the liberation struggle.
Most UWC students come from backgrounds that make it almost impossible to even think about attending universities abroad. The first generation students’ focus may just be to finish the first degree in order to ensure that his/her family is able to purchase the most basic needs, which most of us take for granted such as electricity and indoor plumbing. Other students are focused on how he/she will be able to raise his/her siblings and get them through school, while at the same time trying to complete their own studies.
Funding to bring UWC students to Marquette not only opens opportunities for future students, but also allows those fortunate enough to study in the U.S. to have a global view of their own lives and community.
If a UWC student is able to study in the U.S., that individual will bring hope to their entire community that anyone can rise above the odds. He or she is someone others in the community can relate to, someone who has risen out of similar challenges and who overcame social exclusion.
It used to be that a high school diploma was sufficient for obtaining jobs in South Africa, but now without a college degree a student’s future is compromised. The value of a university degree is the open door of hope for siblings, neighborhoods and many others in the community where such opportunities are limited.
An international experience increases employment opportunities because companies want students who have experience and exposure; a critical prerequisite to be successful in the work environment.
In the same way that Marquette students enrich the classroom at UWC, the rich history and background that a UWC student would bring to Marquette would allow MU students to learn first-hand about the challenges and successes which exist in South Africa.
The cross cultural exchange increases global understanding of local and international public policy slowly bringing us closer to the reality of a global village.
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