My heart is in Africa!

Shelby Richardson Start Date: Mar 27, 2018 - End Date: Jul 26, 2018
  • South Africa

My Travel Story

by: Shelby Richardson Start Date: Mar 27, 2018 - End Date: Jul 26, 2018
Im sure that you are a little curious about me, my name is Shelby and I am going to South Africa this summer. As a student at Western Washington University I Was blessed enough to be invited on a humanitarian trip to learn about and from the people of South Africa. I see so much value in learning from other cultures and perspectives and I hope that you also see the value and help support me in this journey. 
Having the ability to travel abroad will help to enhance my humanitarian studies. My professional and personal goals are aligned in the sense that my objective is to truly understand standpoint theory. I want to explore the human experience from a multitude of sources, the more diverse the better. Having the ability to understand the complexities of the human experience will help me in the future when I am working with diverse populations attempting to solve social issues. I find a tremendous amount of value in the study of both humans and the grassroots companies that they produce. This program will give me ample opportunity to observe and participate in companies that are made by the people for the people using the supplies that they have readily available. This is a concept that once I learn I hope to be able to teach and reproduce when I come back. In addition I am curious about the NGO's that we will be working hand in hand with when we arrive in South Africa. I want to learn about the services and resources they offer as well as how they determine need and the process of creating these programs.

My history while not the most glamorous has provided me a unique view of the world. I grew up in the foster care system and then at the age of eight I entered a household that I lived in until I was sixteen, at that age I left the home due to mental and physical abuse. I figured out a way to make it on my own and learned many valuable lessons along the way. When I entered higher education at the age of 23 I had no idea what I wanted to pursue so I  just started, I figured the rest would come. Even starting college was a big deal because neither of my parents graduated high school and no one in my family had ever gone to college. When I was working through my general courses I took an intro class for human services and my passion was ignited. The class was highly influential because it empowered me to use my past and all of the pain that I endured as a platform to create change. Another part of me that is underrepresented is my ability to be open-minded. I have the ability to think critically and self teach through life experiences. While this is not a very conventional answer I do think that it makes it so that I represent a different learning style that can greatly benefit from such experiences as studying abroad.

I am interested in South Africa as my study abroad option because of their painful history. The apartheid could have been the end to the story of South Africa, the oppression and segregation very well could have started a war to end all wars. But they chose a different path. They chose to grow and forgive and progress together. The ability to set aside the pain even momentarily is empowering and I want to talk to the people that continue to fight the oppression. I want to talk to the people that live there and see how the individual is contributing to the growth of the nation. The people that live in South Africa are constantly making the choice to be involved, to be a part of the change and I find that to be inspired. Here in America we have this widely accepted idea that the individual doesn't have the impact to create a large change. I want to dissect that idea and counterattack any of the excuses that we accept, I want to learn how to be the change and how to teach progress in dark times. Another reason that I want to travel to South Africa specifically is due to the uncomfortable nature of the topics we will be discussing. I could have chosen to go to Switzerland, or Germany, or even Italy but I don't think that I would have the opportunity to learn as much as I will in South Africa. I think that stepping out of your comfort zone is a way to reassess the values that we have accepted. I wanted to choose somewhere as far out of my comfort zone as possible to promote the biggest shake up of ideas. I want to shatter any preconceived ideas that are based on privilege and inexperience. 
  • South Africa