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Service Learning in South Africa

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Last Updated on June 3, 2015 by

AIFS offers a unique program in South Africa called Service Learning that allows students to to develop an understanding of the current issues impacting community life in South Africa. Students gain firsthand experience through service to a South African community while earning academic credit.

Sarah studied with us in 2010 and kept a blog about her experience learning, traveling and working with the local community:

It’s Thursday afternoon and I just got back from the Sustainability Institute / Lynedoch Primary School where I’ll be completing my 9 service learning credits. There are 14 AIFS students and 10 other internationals that will be working together at this school, which serves one of the poorest communities in the country. It’s a primary school so there are kids from kindergarten up to 8th grade, but all of them are physically much smaller than you would expect because of malnutrition. We got a chance to play with them during their 15 minute recess today and it was incredible.

Our teacher and supervisor for this course is a man named Grant, who seems to be nothing short of brilliant. Our resident director had told us ahead of time that Grant has a very unique style of teaching and that he’s incredible at it, but to experience it was really something else. It seems like his life is one continuous motivational speech. Hopefully I’ll become better at describing him over the course of the semester so that this makes more sense. But to put it simply, I feel as though there are so many valuable skills and important pieces of knowledge that I can learn from him, and I’m very eager for all of it. His life has been an amazing journey and he’s so eager to share himself with us.

As for the format of the course, we’ll be taking a train to the school two days a week. Every Monday from 9am to 3pm we’ll be teaching lessons in the classroom, leading PE exercises, reading books to the students, helping to maintain an organic garden, and constructing a small library in the school. On Fridays we go back to the school from 9am to 3pm for our theory class (here they call it lecture). After today’s orientation I’m very excited about all of this and I know that this is the perfect program for me. The 23 other internationals are great and getting to know them more closely is going to be a lot of fun. And this will provide all of us with an experience vastly different from the one we’ll get at the university. We’ll witness one of the biggest contradictions of South Africa by taking two courses at Stellenbosch University with other privileged students and by working fifteen minutes down the road with an extremely impoverished group of children. Grant warned us that it will become mentally and emotionally draining, but we’re all really excited about the course.


Read the rest of the blog post and more about her time in South Africa on her blog Adventures in South Africa. Interested in going abroad this fall? There’s still time to apply and we are offering a $1,000 grant! Read more on our website.

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