International Connections

Raeann Hanlon

Major: Event Management

; Apparel, Merchandising, and Design

Year: Senior
Hometown, State: Churdan, Iowa

Type of experience: Study Abroad
Experience: AESHM South Africa Study Tour
Experience website:
Destination: South Africa

Overall experience..
Overall I had a great experience in South Africa. I liked that we got to visit a variety of cities and towns so we could really compare the culture. We got to visit Pretoria, Soweto, Johannesburg, Capetown, Limpop and several other stops along the way. We really got a well rounded experience by partaking in a wide variety of activities from going on safaris, visiting a school, working in a sewing center, learning the history of the country as well as about its political environment, visiting an elephant reserve, visiting Krueger Nationa Park, visiting a beach with a penguin focused national park, and so much more. By getting the opportunity to participate in all of these activities I was able to really learn about South Africa and the countries culture and history. I really enjoyed everyone that we got to interact with and I would love to go back to South Africa someday.

I learned...
I found out about this experience while researching the Apparel program at Iowa State as a senior in high school. I then found out more information when I got into the program.

An impact to my life...
Traveling to South Africa has definitely had an impact on me. It has taught me not to take things and experiences in my life for granted because others are not so fortunate. Along with this it has really made me aware of what needs are compared to extra things that I may not actually need. When it comes to education it taught me to me thankfully for both the childhood and college education. I did not realize how lucky we are with our school system compared to some in other countries. I also was not aware how lucky we were with our teacher to student ratio compared to the students in South Africa. I also learned we shouldn't take college for granted because most students over there don't always get the opportunity to even attend college for several reasons. Lastly this experience impacted my career goals as well. After learning about the school system and met some high schoolers and heard about their dreams to go to college, it really reinforced my desire to go into student affairs in higher education. I want to be able to support and encourage students in their college career and help them determine what they want to do with their fiture.

A surprising discovery...
During our time near Soweto we got to visit an informal settlement. An informal settlement is basically a living community where the people are unemployed and live in small shacks or huts. One thing that really surprised me was how grateful and happy the people living in the community we visited were even though they really had nothing. It really showed me how many things we take for granted. Since being back it has really made me think more about what I want to value as important in my life.

Advice for others...
I think the biggest advice I have is just to go in with an open mind. If you go into the experience with an open mind and not so many expectations you are really able to just soak in the whole experience and just immerse yourself.

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