Kelsey Renner - 2014 Program Participant

Sunset over Windhoek, Namibia

Kelsey’s favorite spot in Windhoek that overlooks the entire city. Great to watch the sunset from!

What led you to study abroad?        

Study abroad is a popular program at my school, Clark University, and as an International Development and Social Change major, it was even more appealing as a way to do something more hands on and less theoretical. Before going abroad, I had only left the country once for a week-long vacation to Belize. I felt like the most beneficial way to improve upon myself personally, academically, and professionally would be to spend a semester abroad.

Why did you choose the Augsburg Center for Global Education program in Southern Africa?

I fell in love with the CGE Southern Africa program almost instantly. I knew I wanted to go to sub-Saharan Africa somewhere. Also, a bunch of my field hockey teammates at the time had gone and highly recommended the program for its extensive travel options, academic interests, and the internship component. As I researched it more, it seemed like a program that had everything I wanted. It was out of my comfort zone, would expose me to applicable issues in development studies, and take me to more than one new country!

Riding donkeys in Africa

Kelsey with her third and final homestay family before hitching up the donkeys for a ride into town.

What made the CGE Southern Africa program particularly interesting?

One of the most interesting components of CGE Southern Africa is the “living-learning community”. You stay in a house with other American students on your program, as opposed to a university, and take your classes in the living room, while your professors’ offices are right downstairs. This allows you to completely immerse yourself in the group and become comfortable sharing such new and exciting experiences.

Everyone at CGE, from my classmates and professors, to the house staff, made my experience what it was. They all helped me to take in as much as I could in my time there. It was great to be surrounded by such like-minded individuals who had a genuine curiosity for what was going on in the world around them and always eager to do more!

What is the best thing about the CGE Southern Africa program that future participants need to know?

The experiential learning offered through CGE is one of a kind. Before I went abroad, I was getting frustrated with the conventional forms of education. I was typically exposed to long lecture style classes with an ample amount of reading, note taking, and paper writing. While CGE does have some of these aspects, it focuses much more heavily on exposing you to the history and culture of Southern Africa through museums, guest speakers, homestays, internships, travel seminars, and other novel experiences than straight text book learning. I felt like this allowed me to get a better understanding of the concepts I was supposed to be learning, and it made me more confident in my ability to question and think critically by the time I left, which is such an important skill to me.

What’s one thing you would do differently if you could go back?

I would have done a whole year! I miss Namibia and South Africa every day I am not there. Four months fly by before you know it, and you don’t realize that until you’re on the plane home, wishing you had gone to that one museum, or eaten at that one restaurant, or spent a little more time with that one professor. I have absolutely no regrets about this program or my experience.

Study abroad students in Johannesburg, South Africa

Kelsey’s whole group after a lovely day in Johannesburg!

How has studying abroad affected your life back at home? What about your approach to your education?

I feel more refreshed and ready to learn than I did before going abroad. Studying abroad renewed my passion for international development studies, but most importantly, it has helped me to think of the concepts and issues I’m learning in class on a broader scale. I feel not only like a more well-rounded student, but also a more well-rounded person. I am genuinely happier because of the time I spent abroad, and the anticipation of going back someday always gives me something to look forward to! I gained a family from people I would have never known otherwise and that is so invaluable to me.