South African students visit UVM for leadership education

For ten South African students, a dream to study abroad is coming true.

As participants in the Leadership for Change Program at the University of the Free State in Bloemfontein, South Africa, the students are visiting UVM for two weeks this month.

“They will be on campus from Jan. 14 through Jan 28. and will be housed in Living and Learning,” anthropology Professor Robert Gordon said. “Obviously they would be looking for UVM students to shadow, but somehow we haven’t quite worked out the logistics of the situation.”

Gordon believes that having the students visit the University is a win-win situation for everyone.

The Leadership for Change Program began in 2010 in order to give students intense exposure to the academic, social, cultural and residential lives of students in another country, according to a document released by the University of the Free State.

Marisa Swart, a sophomore at the University of the Free State, said that 150 students out of a pool of 600 applicants were selected to attend universities all over the world.

Swart, one of the South African students studying at the University of Vermont, said that she is most looking forward to meeting new people.

“It is also a learning experience to learn about myself better and to get to know people from other countries,” she said. “I chose Vermont because I heard it’s one of the most beautiful places in America.”

Hans Tah is another student from South Africa that arrived this week at UVM and said that there were numerous reasons why he was looking forward to his visit to Vermont.

“The famous first reason that pivots all the excitement regarding my visit to Vermont is the fact that the University host students of many races, cultural backgrounds, and nationalities,” Tah said. “This is going to give me a great opportunity to live and interact daily in a community of great diversity.”

He also said that Vermont has turned out to be a good place for him to visit because of his intended major in geology.

“It’s a big opportunity for me to visit some of the interesting places and add more knowledge to my domain of studies,” he said. “I can’t wait to visit the lake next to the school campus.”

It is apparent that many of the visiting South African students are enthusiastic about their trip overseas, and some UVM students said they are also eager to have these students in the Green Mountain state.

“I don’t think UVM is as diverse as I would like to see,” junior Claire Hammond said. “Having these students visit would allow others to talk to and get to know these students, where they come from, and how it differs from the environment at UVM.”

Other students said they agree with Hammond.

“I think cultural exchanges are really great,” sophomore Paulina Mei said. “UVM isn’t very culturally diverse, but I do think it tries to accommodate people from all different types of backgrounds.”

Mei also said that she thinks students who attend UVM offer a unique perspective to visiting students.

“I think that the students who go to UVM offer the most to international students,” she said. “The people that attend UVM are from all over the country and have different insights about American culture.”