Today’s Blog Writers: Everyone!
On our last day at ALA, we visited the Walter Sisulu Botanical gardens for a picnic lunch and to reflect upon our time in Johannesburg.
We had a thought-provoking discussion about social media and our ability to both perpetuate and dismantle a single narrative of South Africa, and Africa as a continent, through our various platforms. We were able to reflect on how some of our own choices throughout the trip could have contributed to this stereotyping, and we discussed what we can do differently moving forward.
We also had time to enjoy the beautiful day and take a stroll to the nearby waterfall.
After that, we returned to campus to exchange gifts and bid our friends a fond farewell.
On our way to the airport, we asked the students to reflect upon their experiences. Here are some responses from the group:
What is one thing that stuck with you from our conversation, today, on social media and portrayal of your experiences?
“One thing that really stuck with me from the conversation about social media is the fact that what you post really matters in supporting the single story. What you decide to post can either truly show the side of a place people don’t normally see or support the stereotypes of that place.” – Brooke
“One thing that stuck out to me was that social media only portrays the good and not the hardships. I realized that one of the reasons I was not really happy at the start was that I was seeing other people do fun excursions while we were at school, and I felt sad and like I was missing out. In reality, I just did not see the amazing opportunities around me.” – Mayrra
“I never realized how much your social media matters and how saying it’s “just one post” can create a butterfly effect.” – Sarah
“In the future, I will definitely pay more attention to the perceptions of the places I’m going and how they are portrayed in the media.” – Evie
“One thing that stuck with me today about the conversation on social media and portrayal was that a majority of people only post animals when they visit an African country.” – Alexia S.
“One thing that stuck with me from our conversation today was the difference between searching the #america and #africa on Instagram and seeing some similarities but mainly extreme differences. This stuck with me because after seeing Johannesburg I knew that the photos of Africa showing all poverty and tribal areas were not true representations.” – Cassie
“Even though intentions can be good, the impact can still be bad.” – Anna
“Social media has the ability to perpetuate stereotypes and give one facet of a story. We as individuals can end the perpetuation by sharing stories on social media that add another perspective and truth.” – Jenny
What is one way you have changed or grown?
“I have changed as a person because I have been open to new experiences. I tried new foods and met new people.” – Eliza
“One way I have changed is that I really did go into everything with an open mind, which is something I’m usually not good at.” Jackie
“After seeing and experiencing things outside of my everyday life and typical comfort zone, I am able to fully appreciate everything I have and have discovered a love for traveling.” – Grace
“I have grown in my ability to communicate across different cultures.” – Anna
“Throughout this trip, I have leaned into discomfort and took in every moment to the fullest.” – Lex C.
“One way I have changed is the way that I now challenge my assumptions. I think that I am able to look past my initial thoughts and try to see a new side of things.” – Brooke
What is one thing you have learned?
“One thing I learned was not to make assumptions and go into everything with a clear mind.” – Mayrra
“I have learned the importance of interacting with kids from a variety of backgrounds and countries.” – Sarah
“I learned a lot about the history of South Africa and a bit about the counties that students [at ALA] are from.” – Evie
“I have learned that no matter what cultural differences separate us, I still have so much in common with people who live in countries halfway across the world from me.” – Katje
“I’ve learned that being out of my comfort zone is necessary for growth.” – Willow
“I’ve learned more about all the resistance and persistence during apartheid specifically when visiting Soweto and the symbolism shown in the Hector Pieterson Museum.” – Lex C.
“I have learned that there are so many different perspectives and backgrounds to each and every story and opinion. Having conversations with a group of people who come from all different backgrounds helps you to recognize those complexities and understand your position as well as the topic overall in a much more complete way than before.” – McKenzie
“Looking back, I have learned a lot about the importance of being inquisitive and to always ask questions because nothing is ever what it seems. My trip here has pushed me to look beyond the obvious. “ – Jenny
What one thing you will remember?
“I will always remember the memories I have made here, especially with my chommie.” – Eliza
“One thing I will remember is our trip to Maboneng, because art is something that is very important to me and I found all of the street art very exciting and interesting.” – Jackie
“I will remember my chommie and the people at ALA for how welcoming they were and how interesting seeing all of the different points of views were.” – Grace
“I will remember exploring both the urban and rural areas of Johannesburg that allowed me to see the many aspects that makeup South Africa.” – Katje
“One thing I will always remember is the day in seminal readings when everyone in the room talked about different aspects of their culture from their home. It was so amazing and I learned so much that day.” – Alexia S.
“I will always remember my chommie and how she was so extremely welcoming and kind to me. She will be a lifelong friend to me and I will never forget her.” – Willow
“I will remember the time my chommie, her roommate and I sat on the ground of the room and they played guitar and ukulele while we all sang to some of my favorite songs as well as theirs. This was one of my favorite times at ALA because we bonded so much and grew so much closer.” – Cassie
“I will remember the welcoming attitude of every single person we met while in South Africa, but most importantly the ALA basketball team. That team made me feel wanted and like I was a part of something as soon as I stepped foot on the court at ALA and the relationships I formed with the girls will definitely stay with me throughout my life. I am so incredibly thankful to have met them and to have shared such an amazing experience with that team.” – McKenzie
Thank you, to our dear friends at ALA, for opening their homes and their hearts to us!