Student Profiles - Jess Summy
Class: Spring 2013
Major: Business administration (international business) and sociology.
Hometown: Quentin, Pa.
What swayed you to want to study abroad in South Africa?
I chose South Africa primarily because I was intrigued by its past. During high school I read Kaffir Boy by Mark Mathabane, an autobiography describing the racial struggles of life during the Apartheid. I found it fascinating that during the same era when civil rights were at the forefront of American politics, other governing bodies were embracing institutional and blatant discrimination, separation and exploitation.
Additionally, I was interested in seeing South Africa from both a cultural and economic perspective in regards to how the 2010 FIFA World Cup aided South African development. I also wanted to see how diverse cultures came to coexist together.
What were your initial expectations of this trip?
Personally, I don’t like going into a new experience with specific expectations in mind. I feel that by doing so, I would keep my own blinders, sensitivities and prejudices intact, potentially missing out on seeing and understanding a different culture in its own light and context. The only hope I had in going to South Africa was that I would come back with a broader perspective and a better understanding of how to relate to other people.
Was there a language barrier?
Yes and no. My experience in South Africa was that the majority of people speak English. However, South Africa has 11 officially recognized languages, so I became used to not understanding what other people were saying. Other languages I heard included Zulu, Xhosa, Afrikaans, Sotho and Swazi.
What classes did you take? Which was your favorite?
I took “Social Change,” “Workers and Industrialization in South Africa,” “Human Behavior” and the “Social Environment and Culture and Society in Africa.” I learned new things from all of my courses, but I particularly enjoyed Social Change because of the content covered in the module. We examined social change, urban change, environmental change and migration.
What do you enjoy most about working with people, since you are majoring in sociology?
I enjoy seeing and understanding a situation from different perspectives. Everyone has a unique history that influences how he or she views the world, so I think it is important to understand a situation, issue or problem from various viewpoints in order to come to a conclusion that will meet various needs.
What is the most unique experience you’ve had in terms of South African culture?
One of my favorite South African cultural experiences was visiting the Kliptown Youth Program in Soweto, where I learned about the history of informal settlements in South Africa. Kliptown is an area near Johannesburg that is currently facing extreme poverty. After learning about its history and visiting the nearby Kliptown Open Air Museum, a group of gumboot dancers from the Kliptown Youth Program performed for us. I think western culture can be very individualistic, so I enjoyed the role community plays in African cultures.
What activities did you participate in abroad that you wouldn’t have tried in the U.S.?
I had the opportunity to take a few trips during my time abroad, so I was able to experience South Africa with good friends. I hiked in the Drakensberg, became scuba certified and went diving in Sodwana Bay, went to my first rugby game, visited Cape Town and Johannesburg, kayaked with penguins and seals and went cage diving with great white sharks. I also took a road trip through South Africa, Swaziland and Mozambique, went on a few game drives, snorkeled with a whale shark and tasted impala. To finish up my trip, I traveled to Zambia and Zimbabwe to see Victoria Falls.
What are your favorite aspects of Millersville University?
My favorite aspect of Millersville is the diversity of the students, faculty and staff. I enjoy knowing that while I have friends here that I have known since elementary school, I have met people from all over the globe with backgrounds very different from mine that offer different views on issues.
What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced while double majoring?
Being a double major has become more difficult, as I am beginning to realize where my primary interests lie and in what topics I find motivation. In some applications my majors come together, but in many ways ideologies and goals clash. While this disjunction can be frustrating, it is helping me realize the direction I would like to pursue after graduating from Millersville.
Ideally, what career would you like to have?
I would like to begin my career working in a human resource capacity within a large corporation. Ultimately, I would like to expand upon my current studies and pursue a higher degree in organizational behavior to study individual and organizational interaction. At some point I would love to work abroad within a social or economic development context.
How has Millersville helped you to succeed?
Millersville is helping me succeed by providing occasions to try new things and experiences through the different programs and partnerships the University maintains. By hosting speakers and events, Millersville provides its students with many opportunities to network and explore future possibilities.