Ten students and three faculty members from Georgia Southern University are somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean this morning flying to the African country of Botswana, even though they left Statesboro Wednesday afternoon.
The students and faculty are making history at GSU as the university’s first ever group to go on a service-learning study abroad trip. Also, the classes they attend are Georgia Southern’s first offered on the African continent.
Simone Charles, an assistant professor at the Jiann-Ping Hsu College of Public Health, is teaching a course on public health and environmental sustainability at the University of Botswana campus.
Charles said, “We particularly will be looking at environmental sustainability, working alongside a community organization to develop handbooks for communities and to work alongside communities to establish environmental sustainability projects.”
Wednesday afternoon, a small group of faculty, staff and friends that included GSU president Dr. Brooks Keel saw the group off as they loaded the van to head to the airport in Atlanta. The group boarded a 15-hour flight to Johannesburg, South Africa and then will drive about five hours to their final destination in Botswana.
While in Botswana, students will work with a group called Somarelang Tikologo and study issues such as poverty and environmental sustainability.
When they’re not volunteering or taking classes, students will go on a real African safari and attend a World Cup soccer match between Slovakia and New Zealand on June 15. Some students say that they will try to convince the professors to let them go to a second match.
Samantha Smith, a senior marketing major, said that she has never traveled abroad before. She said that she is looking forward to volunteering while she’s there.
“We’ll be working firsthand with the people there, doing environmental sustainability projects,” Smith said. “We’re doing a business aspect of it as well, micro financing and trying to get funds for women in the country there that make product from recyclable products like plastic bags.”
Alyssa Oravec, a senior management major, has studied abroad before – in Italy, but she said that she feels Botswana will be a new experience for her and that it will help her on her future career path.
“I’ve never been to Africa before,” Oravec said. “I also want to join the Peace Corp when I graduate, so this with working with the nonprofit seems like it would be along the same line of things I would be doing with that.”
Senior accounting major Brit Lanier, who said he has worked with numerous nonprofits in the Statesboro area, said it would be a new experience to learn and work in Botswana.
Lanier said: “It’s just a different experience. It gives you the ability to see the whole world and see a completely different lifestyle that not a lot of people get to see on a daily basis.”
Todd Deal, director of GSU’s Office of Student Leadership and Civic Engagement said that the university has been working on planning the trip for nearly two years and that it is the first service-learning oriented study abroad class. His office also provided travel stipends to offset the cost of the trip.
“What a great opportunity for them,” Deal said. “Janna Pennington in our office has worked really, really hard over the last year to arrange this. The unique part of this is that it’s a service-learning study abroad trip, which I love that idea that students are going to abroad to do service and take the two classes.”
To follow their journey while they’re in Botswana, visit the group’s blog at www.eagles inafrica.blogspot.com.