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Understanding the past; changing the future
November 14th, 2023 | Africa, SIT Study Abroad
Anyone who wishes to think critically about social inequality and how we can work toward a more equitable world should study abroad in Africa.
By Amanda Flores
Amanda Flores studies abroad on SIT Rwanda: Post-Genocide Restoration and Peacebuilding in spring 2017.
It is no accident that Africa has been so poorly represented in the Global North. Decades of colonialism and its aftermath have allowed former colonial powers to continue exploiting its wealth of resources with little global outcry. Studying abroad in Africa and learning directly from its people is the best way to understand this past and the grassroots initiatives that are actively constructing a more just, decolonized present. Moreover, it is crucial for people who have been raised in the west to understand their privilege and how to use it to fight against systemic oppression. By engaging directly with people whose lives have been impacted by these systems through living and studying abroad in Africa, students can even become better allies at home.
It is crucial for people who have been raised in the west to understand their privilege and how to use it to fight against systemic oppression.
Studying abroad in Rwanda proved to me the power that everyday people have to make change in their communities. It showed me that the best solutions to societal problems often do not come from a top-down approach, but rather from people most impacted by such problems. Throughout my life since returning from study abroad, I have been guided and inspired by this principle.
My career since studying abroad has taken some interesting twists and turns but at the moment I am in law school aspiring to become a labor lawyer who represents workers and unions. The analogy might not be the most obvious, but this is how I connect my career plans to my study abroad experience: Similar to how Rwandans used community conflict resolution methods to help create a more just post-genocide society, workers today are engaging in collective action to fight for economic justice, and I am excited to be a part of this movement.
Rwandans used community conflict resolution methods to help create a more just post-genocide society.
On a more personal note, studying abroad in Rwanda with SIT also brought me some amazing friendships from within my cohort and from Kigali. I even met my partner through my SIT cohort, and we have been together for more than six years now. I am grateful to have learned about Rwanda from Rwandans themselves, whether through academic lectures or site visits, and having a group of like-minded students to reflect upon difficult topics together. Although the semester was challenging and at times uncomfortable, it helped shape me into a better citizen of the world and activist in globally-minded social movements.
Any student considering SIT should think about what they want out of their study abroad experience. If they want to be immersed in a country, experience life outside of the bubble that universities (no matter where) tend to be, learn from a diverse group of people, and dive into a social issue that the student is passionate about, there is no better program than SIT.