My study abroad experience has been an amazing and life changing experience. We have visited many different museums and historical sites that are embedded in the history and culture of South Africa. Some of the places we visited include Nelson Mandela’s house, Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned and where he wrote the book A Long Walk to Freedom, and also the Slave Lodge. All of these places and others were amazing, informative experiences.
Even though I had these amazing experiences at these museums and historical sites in South Africa, we have also been learning from some very interesting South African activists, teachers, and authors. Honestly, nothing came compare to the work we do and my experiences at Manenberg Primary School. Being able to tutor the grade 6 learners and working with them has changed my perspective and outlook on my own life. Being with them everyday, Monday through Friday, and teaching them maths, science, and English is great, but they are teaching us so much more.
In many moments, I see myself within them because they are currently growing up in an impoverished area surrounded by gang violence. As a 6th grader in Detroit, I grew up in one of the most violent and gang-affiliated areas. Even though I may be able to relate to them in many ways, there are also major differences between them and myself and our up-bringing.
For example, these students receive more nurturing and encouragement in the classroom than I ever did. While working with and tutoring these students, we also have to encourage them and uplift them academically and hug them everyday when the school day is over. Being able to hugh them and encourage them is the prominent thing that has changed my life and perspectives. I feel that students in American often do not receive this type of love and encouragement. As I reflect on my experiences in 6th grade, I was led to believe that showing affection was uncooland would make me unpopular. I think there needs to be a shift in education, especially for at-risk students to provide hugs and encouragement becuase you never know what a student is facing and hugs are very important, even if they go unsaid.