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EIU 360

Study Abroad in South Africa

Get your paperwork turned in by Feb. 18 for this FCS study abroad experience

The School of Family and Consumer Sciences will again oversee a semester-long study abroad trip to South Africa, and time is quickly running out to complete your paperwork for this Fall 2013 program.

If you’re considering the trip and still on the fence about whether or not to go, perhaps Sarah Maurer’s experiences from the 2006 trip will sway you to make the voyage to Cape Town.

“I went with a group of FCS students from EIU and stayed in a flat with them,” remembers Maurer, a 2008 EIU graduate who went on to earn a master’s degree at the University of Illinois and now works as a therapist for ABC Counseling and Family Services. “We were able to stay on the same track to graduation by completing classes there while getting hands-on experience in a different culture.”

While Maurer was in South Africa, she was also able to gather research for her undergraduate thesis, titled Social Disadvantage and Child and Family Resiliency in South Africa. She ended up presenting that research in 2007 at the Kappa Omicron Nu Leadership Institute and Undergraduate Research Conference in Dallas, receiving the organization’s Social Justice Award for her work.

“The objectives for the study were to identify programs in South Africa designed to help individuals and families cope with and overcome adversity, to identify the aspects of community programs that appeared to be most helpful in promoting resiliency in families, and to identify aspects of resiliency displayed by children from South Africa involved in community programs,” explained Maurer.

According to the study abroad program’s website, students participating in the South Africa program will:

  • Experience international education in a format that allows you to complete a full semester (up to 15 hours) of required and elective coursework fitting seamlessly in your Family Services option program of study at the undergraduate level.
  • See international human services programs firsthand.
  • Observe social and family structures in urban and rural settings in conjunction with course assignments.
  • Complete your internship.

”I enjoyed doing a child practicum experience with fellow students,” said Maurer. “This took place at a pre-primary school in a township. Outside of classwork, we got to see the sights of the area.”

Those extracurricular activities included a safari, mountain climbing, taking in a comedy show and other performances, and a visit to Robben Island.

“I enjoyed running along the promenade near our flat and trying new foods,” added Maurer. “We also had a number of volunteering options with (non-governmental organizations) such as helping out the Thembalitsha Foundation, where we engaged with children affected by HIV.”

According to Frances Murphy, the program coordinator, paperwork for this trip needs to be completed no later than Monday, Feb. 18, 2013, although she stresses not to wait until the last minute.

“Students should contact me as soon as possible in order to discuss the possibilities and how best to prepare their coursework to fit with the program,” said Dr. Murphy. “They can contact me at flmurphy@eiu.edu.”

While the program is geared primarily toward Family Services undergraduates, FCS grad students, and Early Childhood Education students, Dr. Murphy says those are not hard-and-fast restrictions.

“Strictly speaking, anyone can participate as long as they have the prerequisites,” explained Dr. Murphy. “The program is designed for the FCS curriculum, but we do not limit the participation. One factor that allows more flexibility is the potential for online courses in a student's major area of study if it is other than FCS.

“As a matter of fact, we have a student signed up for the Fall 2013 program who is a sociology major. Individual consultation on how the program can fit into the student's curriculum is essential.”   

Maurer can’t recommend the program enough.

“I feel studying abroad benefited me in a number of ways,” said Maurer. “Sometimes one has to step out of their comfort zone to grow. I learned first-hand about diversity and adapting to a different culture with other students I did not know ahead of time.

“The learning experience was something I could have never gotten otherwise. It has helped shape me as an individual and as a professional. I will never forget the study abroad experience. It was definitely worth the investment. I would absolutely recommend studying abroad to current students and would encourage them to engage in a life-changing opportunity.”

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