And wheels are up and the South Africa group is on their way to New York!

After a full last day at ALA and tearful goodbyes, the group is finally in air and en route to JFK International Airport on South African Airways flight #203. They are due to arrive on time at 6:40am EST tomorrow (Saturday) morning and should be back in Farmington by 10:45am.

Stay tuned for additional blog postings over the next few days as the students arrive back in the US and share their final reflections on their individual journeys over the last two weeks.


Day 11: Exploring and Game Reserve

Today’s Blog Writers: Everyone!*

Cassie and Lex 

Today while visiting Kwalata, game reserve, we saw multiple beautiful giraffes along with many other animals. The lighter colored giraffe is the female compared to the darker colored giraffe which is the male. In contrast to many animals, giraffes walk with both the front and back legs of the same side!


Katje and Willow

While on the safari, our tour guide pointed out these giraffes as they walked in front of our ranger. He noted the difference between the female and male giraffes, as the males have ossicones (large horns) and the females do not. We loved learning about the animals we saw because we gained a better environmental perspective!


Jenny and Anna

During our game drive, a three-day-old zebra stopped right in front of our vehicle. It was too young to realize to be wary of the truck, so it stood there for a whole minute observing the truck.


McKenzie and Evie

We visited a daycare run by local community members. Children ages 1-6 attend the program Monday-Friday while their parents work and take care of other issues. We sung songs with them and gave high fives. The center was built with money raised by the wildlife reserve as a way for them to give back to their community. Before the donations, the program was run out of a one room facility, but today is run out of 2 beautiful new buildings. It was amazing to see what the reserve was doing for the surrounding community.


Jackie and Eliza

Today was a long day starting with a 3-hour car ride. The game reserve was worth the trip because we got to see many animals including giraffes, zebras, gazelles, ostriches, and wildebeest. It was really cool to see these animals up close and in person. We also went to an elementary school and got to sing with adorable little kids from age 1 to 6. That was a highlight of our day. We also got to go to an old age home, meet more people, and sing to them. Overall, today was filled with new and fun experiences.


Mayrra and Sarah

We had an amazing time on the game reserve today! We were able to see and take lots of pictures of gazelles, giraffes, zebras, and ostriches. This was the excursion we had been looking forward to for the whole trip and it exceeded our expectations!


Alexia and Brooke

One of the things we did today was visit sights that the game reserve assists. Our favorite place was the school/daycare! It is for kids 1-6 years old and they have 5 classes. We sang songs with the kids and taught them “head, shoulders, knees, and toes” as their teachers translated it, which was really cool. Brooke and I enjoyed singing and playing with the kids and it made us really excited to see them welcome us with their song!


What a great day!

~ IM South Africa

* All photos taken with consent of the game reserve and day care personnel!

Day 10: Classes and BUILD Presentations

Today’s Blog Writers: Mayrra Sardjito & Sarah Wagner

Today we had a fairly simple day, and we focused on ALA classes as well as our BUILD presentations. The Porters students were given the opportunity to join any class of their choosing, diverging from their chommie’s schedule. We went to various classes such as African History, Creative Arts, English Literature, Entrepreneurial Leadership, French, Philosophy, etc. Through these fascinating classe,s we were able to see the ALA students’ political and social awareness and love for education. The African Philosophy class got into debates and discussed topics such as should babies be killed, while other classes like International History had a review day and played games to recap events from semester 1. The students were able to have heated debates, while later laughing and joking together. We believe the motto for the day would be: attack the idea not the person.

Right after school, we had BUILD. Since we had a big presentation in front of judges after dinner, we spent two hours making slides and prepping. We were all super excited to present the ideas we had been working on since coming to ALA. The five groups presented issues on: supported formerly incarcerated people in the workforce, ocean pollution, women in the workforce, mental health, open-mindedness, and transparency between students and teachers. It was super helpful to get feedback from the panel of judges to revise our BUILD ideas. Overall it was a great day and we enjoyed hanging out with the ALA students!

Some pictures from the day:

Day 9: Soweto

Today’s Blog Writers: Katje Knoblauch & Willow Quine

Today we boarded the bus from ALA to the town of Soweto (South Western Townships) for our second visit. When we arrived, we were greeted by local guides who welcomed us by singing traditional songs. Soon, we were on our way to a 4-hour walking tour that provided us insight to the communities of the towns and the history behind them.

On the tour, we got to visit the home Nelson Mandela lived in for roughly fifteen years and where his family lived for over forty years. Our guide provided us with information about his historical importance and we learned a lot!

Next, we saw the memorial site of Hector Pieterson, who was the first student to be shot in the Soweto uprising in 1976. We also were treated to ice pops called ice lollies.


Then we were provided with an amazing meal at the camp sights! We got to feast on traditional South African food, consisting of corn, meats, bread and vegetables, all made with organic homegrown food from their own garden!

We then got to stop at a local mall and buy ourselves South African snacks to try. Then we went out to dinner at Mozambik, a restaurant serving Afro-Porto (African-Portuguese) cuisine. We all laughed a lot and had a great time!!!!!!!

Overall, today was a complete cultural immersion and filled with eye-opening aspects tied to both the historic and present societies of this town. From the outside, Soweto is very different than the sheltered oasis that is ALA. However, our tour guides and the many other locals that we interacted with today helped us understand the historical importance it has to the culture of South Africa. Seeing it from the inside helped us appreciate this even more! Finally, exploring the local supermarket and enjoying a delicious dinner added a relaxing end to our day.

Katje and Willow

Day 8: First Day of Classes

Today’s Blog Writers: Eliza Kandrysawtz & Jackie Witt

Today we had our first day of classes at ALA! We shadowed our chommies to all of their classes today, some including African Studies, Entrepreneurial Leadership, Writing and Rhetoric, Business, and more. Most of these classes were based around BUILD, which is the concept we have been working with for our group projects. After classes, we had an assembly where we learned a little bit more about the community at ALA as well as watched a video about the Tunisian Independence. After that, there were sports, so a few of us went to watch soccer practice. Later, we went to BUILD and continued to work on our projects that focus on issues in our communities.

It was interesting comparing the classes taught at ALA to the classes at MPS. Many of us were in classes that we are currently taking or have taken at MPS. The discussions were similar and insightful. It was also interesting to learn more about another country’s culture at the assembly. We got to see what some of the Tunisian students wore for their Independence Day and their national anthem. After the assembly, a lot of us relaxed or took a nap since we felt tired after our first day of classes. What an eventful day!

Day 6: Founder’s Day!

Today’s Guest Blog Writer: Evie Usich

Today, we participated in the ALA Founders Day! During Founder’s Day, the house teams compete in various races and a mascot parade to win points to go toward the house. Our team, Amazon, competed in all the female events and placed 2nd in the 4 x 400 race and the frisbee throwing contest. Linked is a video with some highlights from Founder’s Day.

After Founder’s Day we had some free time before our second BUILD session. During BUILD, we talked about issues that we are passionate about and from that discussion, we got into our groups for the project. For dinner we got Indian food to celebrate Meena’s birthday and later in the evening we went to a party at ALA. Today was another opportunity for us to be welcomed by the ALA community.

Day 5: Seminal Readings Closing, Soweto Entrepreneurs, BUILD, Founder’s Day Prep, and Happy Birthday Meena!

Today’s Guest Blog Writers: McKenzie Roller & Grace Smith

Here is a video that McKenzie and Grace created to recount Day 5:

Photo Highlights

Primary School, Soweto

Street Art, Soweto

Government-owned property that Shumani and Thabang are trying to reclaim to create a community garden, Zone 2 in Soweto

Porter’s with Thabang (left) and Shumani (center), Zone 2 in Soweto

Art in the performance area of Trackside Creative, Orlando West in Soweto

Street Art outside of Trackside, Orlando West in Soweto

Porter’s with Mabila (orange shirt), Nthabiseng, and the rest of Trackside Creative, Orlando West in Soweto

Porter’s students on the Quad, ALA

Happy Sweet Sixteen, Meena! 🙂

Day 4: Seminal Readings, Family Lunch, and Founder’s Day Practice

Today’s Blog Writers: Anna Foster and Jenny Kang

Seminal Readings: Discussion

We started off our morning with a discussion of Nadine Gordimer’s short story, “The Ultimate Safari,” which is narrated by a young girl who escapes from her home in Mozambique during the civil war. My group’s discussion surrounding this text focused on the advantages and disadvantages of migration from both the migrants’ point of view and the point of view of the country they are migrating to. We also discussed certain characters and their embodiment of admirable traits, as well as themes that showed up, such as self-preservation, family, gender roles, and the role of white people versus that of black people.

– Anna


Lunch with Chommies and their advisory families

Every Thursday, ALA students meet with their advisory “families” for lunch. In each family, there are between four and eight students, and two or three teachers. I joined my Chommie and his advisory family for lunch today. It’s nice getting to know the people in his group (Although I cannot learn everyone’s names to save my life!) and everyone is so open and friendly!

– Anna


Seminal Readings: Discussion

Cultural anthropologists have the responsibility to share to the world the cultures of different communities. Additionally, they have the responsibility to depict communities in a way that is not othering that community from the anthropologists’ biases. The Body Ritual Among the Nacirema by Horace Miner gives readers an overview of the American culture using words often associated with negative connotations. My group began to have a critical discussion about the preconceived prejudices people had when cultural anthropology first became a widely studied subject and questioning if it was fair for the different cultures to be seen through a Eurocentric/colonial perspective.

Afterwards, different groups acted out and depicted different American pastimes, but with a little twist: we made it so that the familiar became unfamiliar. Here’s a video that gives you a glimpse of the activity that we did in class.

⁃ Jennifer


Founder’s Day Practice

On Saturday, we will participate in a school-wide field day with many different types of running races. This afternoon I joined a large group of ALA students out on the field. I practiced the 100m, 400m, my explosive starts, and handoffs for the relay. Everyone cheered on whoever was running and was so supportive!

– Anna