Rising Senior Kayla Wodzicki at the Boston Univeristy Frederick S. Pardee School of Global Studies, who will be graduating in with a BA in International Relations in 2015 spent her Spring 2014 semester in South Africa here is how she describes her transfomative semester aborad and how it has effected her.
My semester abroad in Durban, South Africa, was truly a life changing experience for me. I was immediately interested in the Muslim culture in South Africa, but it wasn’t until a chance game of beach volleyball with my fellow students that I decided what the focus of my study should be.
As my friends and I volleyed back and forth one Saturday afternoon, I quickly took note of a woman, dressed in full niqab, watching us intently. A few minutes passed, and of the boys hit the ball out of bounds, and the woman volleyed it back. “Come join us,” we begged, noting her superior volleyball skills. Eventually, she did join us and quickly became the shining star of our team. “I didn’t know Muslim women could do that,” someone remarked after. I remember thinking, “well of course they can, they’re people too,” and so my topic was decided.
Over the next month and a half I embarked on a rigorous independent study project, learning more about the lives of Muslim women in South Africa. Their stories captivated me and their families welcomed me with open arms to Friday prayer and into their homes after.
As I learned more about these women, I also began to learn about the societies that influenced their unique identities. Their stories wove together before my eyes and told a tale of women fighting against the odds to succeed in life and form a united group in a country that has for so long been torn apart by racial tensions. Their journeys weren’t easy, but they were inspirational.
I am incredibly grateful for the experience I had in South Africa. The women I met have touched my life forever and their stories will stay with me long after my time at Boston University. BU gave me the skills and preparation I needed to be able to effectively research and write on a topic I knew almost nothing about when I started the project.
While at BU I have been fortunate to pursue all of my educational interests, international relations, economics, and public health. While in South Africa I was able to successful apply all I have learned in the classroom to create a project that I am immensely proud of.