The availability of Study Abroad programs can be a major influence on which college you choose. That was the case for me. I wanted to attend a school that had opportunities to travel and study outside of the country. Luckily, Saint Joseph’s University has a wide variety of study abroad options. From two-week study tours to one-month summer programs to an entire semester abroad, Saint Joseph’s has a program that works for every student.
During the summer before my junior year, I went to South Africa through a Saint Joseph’s University Summer Program. I went with twelve other students led by SJU faculty members Dr. Bhayroo and Dr. Spinner, who coordinated the trip logistics. With Dr. Bhayroo not only being our professor but also our South African guide, we spent one month immersed in the culture, studying the history of South Africa and working as correspondents for The Hawk Newspaper.
The days were long but exciting. We were constantly taking in our surroundings, building connections, and learning from experiences. Every day we had a morning meeting where each of us updated our professors on story ideas and the day’s plan. The course curriculum was very individualized. Some students focused on writing while others focused on photography. By building the curriculum to the individual, each person was able to do something they were interested in.
In just four weeks, I felt like I learned more about journalism then I would’ve in a classroom. I had so many opportunities to work with and learn from the other 11 students who came on the trip. Guest speakers, usually a writer or photographer currently working in the journalism field, would visit and teach us a new lesson. Being able to learn something and then practice what I had learned in the field right away was such an incredible opportunity. Every activity I did or interview I went to was a learning experience. I learned not only from my professors but also from my classmates, Dr. Bhayroo’s friends and colleagues, and the people I had met or just observed in South Africa. The chance to live in South Africa, take a three credit course, and immerse yourself in a unique culture, while you are a college student, is such a rare moment in life.
Each week was filled with new places, new experiences, new people, and new food. The people we met while in South Africa taught me so much, not only as a journalist but also as an individual trying to understand and appreciate a new culture. The food I ate opened my taste buds into a whole new world. (The Indian food was easily my favorite!) I am so happy and so grateful that I’ve seen so much of South Africa in a personal and nontraditional way.
South Africa gave me beauty and joy. South Africa also humbled me and changed me. I learned to not be wasteful, to not take anything for granted, to love, and to be happy with what you have and not resentful of what you don’t have. I will always remember this trip. I will continue to learn, to grow, to travel and take it all in.
I may be biased but I encourage every student to travel abroad if you have the opportunity. Saint Joseph’s University’s goal is to give each student a holistic education. Traveling is an education in itself. That is why Saint Joseph’s offers multiple opportunities to see more than Philadelphia. We are encouraged to live the Magis. Live greater. I lived greater while traveling and will take what I learned abroad to live greater at home as well.
-Sarah Harwick ’21