Human Development Abroad: A Travel Course to South Africa

On a cold evening on January 5, six gutsy Human Development and Psychology majors met Professor Illene Noppe at Austin Straubel Airport for the beginning of what turned out to be an amazing adventure in South Africa.

Twenty-two hours and four plane changes later, we arrived in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, to study human development in a country 9,000 miles away from Green Bay. Port Elizabeth is on the eastern coast (cape) of South Africa,  alongside the beautiful Indian Ocean. It is home to Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, where we were treated to guest lectures from members of the History, Psychology, Nursing, and Social Work departments. We explored the entire life cycle, from pregnancy until death, in a society that had institutionalized racism (“Apartheid”) until 1994. We also toured many settings associated with our lectures, including a public hospital obstetrics ward for complicated pregnancies, orphanages, shelters for boys and teens, retirement homes, and cemeteries (to make Dr. Noppe happy). We saw a baby being born, line-danced with teens, interviewed middle-class adolescents, visited with elderly residents, and saw untold beauty and unbelievable poverty and the grief associated with a rampant HIV/AIDS crisis.

It was quite an intense learning experience, interspersed with many fun activities, such as participating in game drives, sunning ourselves at gorgeous beaches (it was South Africa’s summer), shopping at flea markets, ziplining, and eating great food. Most importantly, we met many, many gracious and giving people that were a source of inspiration to us all.

Please watch for our presentation of our experiences, to be held at a future Psi Chi event. Dr. Noppe hopes to run the travel course again in the future.

Thanks to Professor Noppe for filling us in on what sounds like an amazing trip! Here are a couple of pictures from the trip, including one that we at The Pink Flamingo find particularly relevant: