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Marguerite Leek

About My Study Abroad Program

Major/Minor: Communications and Global Studies
Program: SIT: South Africa (Social and Political Transformation) -
Location: Durban, South Africa
Term: Spring 2019


Why did you choose to study abroad and how did you select your program?
Being a Global Studies major, I knew that studying abroad was essential for me if I truly wanted to understand the areas I was studying. I had learned about South Africa and it's intense history in several classes over my time at UNC and I was immediately drawn to studying there. I selected an SIT program because they focus on experiential education; using experiences to learn and educate myself was not something I had previously done. Additionally, the focus on social and political transformation stood out to me as I was interested in learning how South Africa had transitioned 25 years after the end of the Apartheid Era.


What did you learn about yourself?
While abroad, I learned the importance of challenging myself. I ended up interning for a civic technology lab while in Durban. Knowing nothing about civic technology, I was extremely concerned about if I would be able to meaningfully contribute to the work being done there. Had I not taken the more challenging path, I would have never met the people I did or learned such about such a niche area of work. I also had to do a lot of challenging the way I typically thought about history and politics as South Africa is so vastly different from the United States.


What is one of your favorite memories from your program?
For two weeks, I got the opportunity to live in a rural area with a traditional Zulu speaking family. During that time we lived without running water and only had electricity at certain hours of the day. My host mom and I shared a passion for baking, so one day she taught me how to make steam bread over the fire and I then taught her how to make biscuits-something they do not have in South Africa. Being able to bond over baking bread was such a pure experience; to share recipes with each other and excitement for what the other was doing was truly wonderful.


What advice do you have for future study abroad students?
Take every opportunity you get to sit down and talk to people. I learned so much more outside of the classroom having conversations with people about their lives, their families history, and their opinions and values. Even children can provide the greatest perspectives, my friend Elizabeth and I stayed with two small girls for a period of time and they taught us so much about joy in life.


Would you do it again?
I would do this again in an instant if I was given the opportunity.


How were your classes abroad different than if you would have taken them at UNC?
My classes abroad were much less structured than a typical class at UNC. I was able to meet different academics from the area almost everyday, including Ela Gandhi (Gandhi's granddaughter) and Mac Maharaj, one of Nelson Mandela's close friends. We took many excursions to different places in the city and around it and were given the chance to speak to experts, then return to our classroom and discuss what we had learned. Overall I loved the more hands-on format of learning I got to experience abroad.