International Connections

Abigail Goeser

Major: Apparel, Merchandising, and Design

Minor/option/emphasis: Emphasis in Creative Design

Year: Sophomore
Hometown, State: Norwalk, Iowa

Type of experience: Faculty Led Program
Experience: AESHM South Africa Study Abroad Program
Experience website:
Destination: South Africa

Overall experience..
On this study abroad trip we visited different cities throughout South Africa. we started in Johannesburg and spent the first few days learning about the history of the city. We visited a designer there and learned about her design process and got to see her design studio. We also visited a school and youth program in the area. Another city we visited was Cape Town where we got so see a lot of artisanal work and got to meet artisan at a big shopping area. Our final stop was at Bluesman Ministries where we worked with women in a sewing lab. We taught the women how to make patterns, got them set up with an online store and developed a new product for them to sell.

I learned...
I learned about this opportunity in class my freshman year. I had class with the professor who organized the trip and she prepared a presentation for our class. She brought in a student who had been on the trip the previous year to show us pictures and encourage us to take advantage of the opportunity.

An impact to my life...
South Africa is a very special place and my life will forever be impacted by what I encountered there. While working at the sewing lab I really saw the good that the fashion industry can bring to place of the world that are struggling. The sewing lab is empowering these women to start their own businesses and grow their skills. Working in this environment inspired me to chose a career that really gives back to those in need. I was also very inspired by the vibrant colors in South Africa and hope to use that inspiration in my future class projects.

I will never forget...
The most memorable experience from this trip was seeing all of the safari animals. It is one thing to see giraffes, elephants or lions in pictures but to see them in person is truly amazing. I loved seeing how the animals interacted in their natural habit and was inspired by the beauty of the untouched landscape they lived in.

A surprising discovery...
One visit we made was to an informal settlement where the people live with next to nothing. We learned about their way of life and youth programs they are implementing in their communities. They spoke to us about how they may not have all the material things in life but they do have a to of joy and hope and community. This inspired me to not strive for material things in my life but to strive for happiness. I think this will help me in my professional life to keep my priorities straight.

Advice for others...
Now is the time to do it! Iowa State makes it so easy to study abroad and does a lot of the hard, planning work for you. Taking big trips like these will get so much harder once you are out of school, have to take time off of work and have to plan it yourself! My biggest advice it step out of your comfort zone and have an open mind, it will make you appreciate every part of your experience more.

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