U.Va. Students Explore “People, Culture and the Environment of Southern Africa”

June 20, 2006 -- Fifteen University of Virginia students and their faculty traveled to Johannesburg, South Africa, on May 23 for the study abroad course, “People, Culture and the Environment of Southern Africa.” An additional six students also traveled to Africa to conduct service-learning projects in local villages.

The class, led by Bob Swap, associate professor of environmental sciences, emphasizes understanding how cultures are shaped by their environment and how these societies likewise alter their environment.

During the trip, which ended June 19, students visited several locations in South Africa and Mozambique, including the Apartheid Museum, the boyhood home of Nelson Mandela, and several rural villages.

Swap tried to “put a new wrinkle in the gray matter” of his students by exposing them to new cultures and the challenges faced by much of the world's populations, he said. “The fact is, these students will someday be corporate, legal and policy leaders. We hope to help them realize that in the future, when they’re making decisions, those decisions will have repercussions around the world.”

Student Essays

Catalina Cecchi, Rising Second-Year Anthropology Student

Gavin Schmidt, Rising Third-Year Majoring in Systems Engineering

Kevin Sinusas, Rising Third-Year Majoring in Biology and Minoring in Philosophy

Peter Stapor, Rising Third-Year Biomedical Engineering Student

Zach Best, Rising Third-Year Anthropology Student