Classes with chommies :)

Today we got to go to classes with our chommies!!  It was so much fun and we learned a lot of new things. I, Maria, got to go to economics, math, EL, and history. I went with my chommie, Jonathan. It was really nice seeing how students interact a lot with each other and how they all have a strong connection with the teachers. My favorite class was EL which stands for entrepreneurial leadership. My group was working on a smoothie business and it was awesome.

As mentioned above,  we got to classes with our chommies. The classes I, Scout, got to go to were EL, biology, math, and African Studies. My favorite class that I participated in was African Studies. We recreated the map of Africa with a long piece of string. Then each student was assigned a different colonizing country and had to pick a part of Africa to colonize. Another class that I really enjoyed was EL. We started off the class by playing mafia! My chomie, Adams, was working on a project and his topic was water pollution. He taught me how the process of the project worked and showed me his progress on his own. 

Susan and Angela
Julia T, Amy, Scout, Julia C, and Maria
Leela and Mel

After we had lunch, which was SO GOOD! We had chicken fingers and fries!! We got to sit with our chommies and we had house lunch. It was super fun, they sang and danced.

Julia T. working on her PICS (passion, interest, cause, and skill)
Julia and Scout working on their PICS

After classes we had BUILD! We started with the first letter of the acronym which was: Believe. As shown above we created posters. The task was to find four pictures and connect them to the words passion, interest, cause, and skills.

  1. Passion – desire for something
  2. Interest – something you would like to learn more about 
  3. Cause – something you like to advocate for 
  4. Skills – something you are talented at 

We got to learn from each other and see how we observe and interpret things differently. 

Overall, today was a really eventful day and we had a lot of fun having a real day in the life experience. We got to see the structure in class and compare and contrast it to our classes. We found that the learning was a lot more intrinsically motivated than our classes. We also found similarities in the dynamics in the classroom and the relationships with the teachers.

— Maria and Scout

Learning from the past while shaping the future

This morning we went to the Apartheid Museum. It was so interesting to learn about the history of South Africa. When we got there, we were given tickets that sorted us as either white (blankes) or non-whites (non-blankes). We went through two different entrances to see the different identifications. They also had life-sized images of descendants of Johannesburg to show how diverse it is and was. One really interesting thing was a virtual reality video about Walter Sisulu, also known as accused number two. He was an activist with Nelson Mandela, and they served over 25 years together in prison. He dropped out of school at 14 and was known for his heart and compassion. Some worlds we used to describe our experience were “important,” “intense,” “meaningful,” “heavy,” “powerful,” and “depressing.”

Group photo at the Apartheid museum

After we returned, we went to assembly, which is like our morning meeting. It had dances, announcements, and even a joke!! It was so exciting to see the whole school clapping and cheering for their classmates. They played two truths and a lie on stage and two students did a dance. They also had a message from the dean about not letting setbacks feel like you don’t belong and believing in yourself in order to engage fully at ALA.

After that, we had sports practice. They have basketball, soccer, volleyball, and netball teams. We both really admired the other students’ passion and determination during their practices, even under the hot sun. It was a great way to get to know ALA students in another setting. 

Scout at Volleyball

This evening we had hall meetings. Malaika played “never have I ever” and talked about the culture in the dorm. Valkyrie debated hall decorations for the term, discussed how to welcome exchange students arriving this Saturday, and joked around with each other. They really made the three Porter’s students staying there feel welcome! 

Julia C, Leela, and Julia T at Basketball

After hall meetings we went to BUILD, which stands for Believe, Understand, Invent, Listen, and Deliver. We talked about what it means to have a human-centered experience. We also played a problem-solving game on the soccer field. Though it seemed impossible at first, we were able to conquer the challenge together as a team. The skills we practiced during this activity will surely help us engage with BUILD for the rest of our time here.

Debriefing on the turf after BUILD

We’re really looking forward to attending class with our chommies tomorrow! Stay tuned for the next blog post tomorrow!
Sincerely, Julia and Leela

Adventure in Maboneng

After a much needed night of rest, we boarded the bus for our excursion to the Maboneng Precinct.

First, we stopped at Carlton Center, a 50-story skyscraper which once stood as the tallest building in all of Africa. From the top story, we were able to see all of Johannesburg, including Maboneng. 

As we learned, Maboneng is an area full of artwork, restaurants, and shops. Our tour guide, a Johannesburg native, told us that Maboneng means a place of light. We made stops on our walking tour to view murals and learn about Maboneng’s history. Our tour guide made a point to tell us about how people should live, work, and have fun in the same place. Maboneng seems like the perfect place to find all of those things.

One of our favorite murals depicted Nelson Mandela boxing, which the tour guide told us was one of Mandela’s  hobbies. “That’s how he survived in prison so long and still was able to run the country!” he joked. 

After the tour, we had lunch at a marketplace. Many different cuisines were offered including Lebanese, Chinese, South African vegan, and South African American fusion. We enjoyed a vegan coconut fried rice meal served in a lettuce bowl and a chicken burger with vegetables and South African sauces. 

There were also boutique shops in the marketplace, which sold traditional South African clothing and home goods.

Overall it was a very enjoyable and interesting day. We had a lot of fun getting closer with both our individual chommies and other peoples’ chommies.

We all look forward to visiting the Apartheid museum tomorrow.  That’s all for now – Ali & Julia C.

Embracing the warmth and new friends

Today, we were warmly welcomed by our chommies!!! They are all super friendly and so excited to have us. They helped us carry our luggage to our rooms for the next two weeks and then we were able to rest because having a group lunch.

I, Angela, spent a while with my chommie before lunch, and she’s really passionate about African history and geography. It was really interesting to learn about a subject that I previously lacked knowledge in. For lunch there was yellow rice, couscous, sausage, and chicken. After lunch we had a few bonding activities and a tour of campus. There is even a really cool water system last year graduates made which includes an aquaponics and live bacteria that filters water.

Arriving on campus

Then we were able to relax in the sun and play volleyball and badminton in the quad. We had a special dinner with our chommies and reflected the day with PENX afterward. It was a very busy day but very rewarding. Can’t wait till tomorrow’s adventures! – Mel & Angela

Making new friends on the bus shuttle
Excited to stretch their legs
Angela, Ali, Julia C, Mel, Scout, and Maria

The group arrived in Johannesburg and are at ALA!

After traveling for 20 hours or so, the group has finally arrived in-country! Everyone is tired but happy to finally be there. The moved through customs without incident, picked up some last minute items, and boarded the bus to the African Leadership Academy (ALA). Upon arrival they were welcomed by their Chommies (host students) and ALA staff for a short reception before moving their luggage into their dorm rooms which will be home for the next two weeks.

Susan, Cate, Amy and Sarah at baggage claim in Johannesburg
About to board the ALA bus at the Johannesburg airport.

Cate and Sarah report that our students jumped right into the activities and fun despite feeling a bit of jet lag! All are doing well.

Our group arriving on the ALA campus and being welcomed by their Chommies
Our students participating in ice breakers with their new friends.

Stay tuned for more pictures and updates!

Wheels are up and the group is en route to Johannesburg!

The South Africa group is en route! After a 5:00am departure from Farmington, they arrived at JFK with time for some food (apparently lots of Shake Shack!) and rest before boarding their South African Airways Flight #204 for Johannesburg. Sarah and Cate reported that everyone is feeling good and very excited to start their journey. 

Boarding their flight!
On board and ready to fly to Johannesburg!

The group is due to arrive in Johannesburg tomorrow, Saturday, January 11th at 8:59am local time which is 1:59am Eastern Standard Time. I will update this blog once the group has arrived in South Africa.

Stay tuned!

Welcome to the 19-20 Porter’s in South Africa Blog!

We are excited for this 11th grade InterMission class to begin their incredible journey to The African Leadership Academy (ALA) in Johannesburg, South Africa!

You can expect to receive updates once daily on this blog. Please keep in mind that the time in South Africa will be 7 hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time so the postings may not happen on a schedule that makes sense in your time zone. This blog is the place to find pictures, videos and reflections from students and faculty on the trip, as well as to receive daily updates about the group’s activities and experiences. We are asking our faculty trip leaders to post all materials so that students can be present for every moment and so that they will not worry about posting to the blog in a timely manner.

We also strongly encourage you to keep contact with your children to a minimum during the immersion, which will allow them to fully experience the life and community of the school. Emailing periodically is a great way to touch base with without disrupting their experiences in school and other activities. We strongly discourage texting and phone calls for the duration of this cultural immersion.

It is going to be a FANTASTIC experience for all and we look forward to sharing it with you on this blog.

Day 12: Walter Sisulu Garden, Goodbyes, and Reflections

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!


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.