Study Abroad Alumni Interview: Crystal Kennemer

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Can you describe what you were doing while you were in South Africa? What was the focus of your program? Crystal and Savontai with students at Sinethemba High School in Philippi

While I was in South Africa I was paired with two other UWT students at one of the high schools in the local township of Philippi. We had the opportunity of observing classes and connecting with teachers and students in hopes to better understand their daily efforts to navigate a system of oppression while trying to transform their community. The focus of the program was to examine post-apartheid racial disparities and how community organizations play a key role in the efforts for transformation.

Share a completely unexpected experience you had while you were abroad. What did you learn from it?

On one of the days, there was a taxi strike going in the township as my group and I were trying to travel to the high school. Cars and buses had been set on fire and all main roads in and out of the township were blocked. As we attempted to make our way to the high school in an effort to say our goodbyes, as it was our last day to be there, you could feel the tension; and we were out of place. It was a very eye opening experience to the continued struggles that these individuals face and the means by which they are forced to use to gain any slim amount of social justice.

What do you miss most about your study abroad program or location?

There is a lot to miss about Cape Town, South Africa; a place rich in history and culture. What I miss the most though, are the friends that I made while I was there. Fortunately, I have been able to keep in contact with a handful of those friends and hope that contact continues are I cherish those friendships very much.

Crystal and colleagues climbing Table Top Mountain!Describe a time in which you were immersed in your host culture. What was challenging or exciting about this?

There were many instances of being immersed in my host culture but the one that I will say that stuck out the most would have to be the music culture of my host country. Everywhere I went there was music, some of which was familiar and some of which wasn’t. I first noticed it on my taxi ride from the airport to the hostel and I soon came to understand that was going to common. There was live music at dinner, groups of people dancing and singing in the parks, even students singing and dancing in school; music was everywhere and I loved it!

How did study abroad change your perspective of the world and yourself?

My perspective of the world has changed a lot since my study abroad experience. Prior to my program, I had a very narrow minded view of the world and this program helped me to understand that there is a lot that I need and want to learn about different places and people. I was challenged in such a positive way and I believe if I continue to get out of my comfort zone and be challenged I have the opportunity for personal growth that I hope to achieve.

How did studying abroad positively affect your personal, professional, or academic life?South Africa cohort at Boulder’s Beach

I learned a lot on my study abroad program about how my white privilege affords me opportunities that others don’t have. I try everyday to take those lessons with me whether it be to school, work or in my personal relationships. My goal is to continue to work on my awareness of both my privilege and systemic racism so that I can be part of the solution and not the problem.

January 30, 2018