Travel Abroad Africa: Help Communities and Earn Credit


Photo Courtesy Ali Peroti

The sixth annual service learning trip to South Africa, lead by Sierra Nevada College’s science and business departments, kicks o in May and June. The trip gives students the opportunity to participate in community-based initiatives that support South African organizations.

Each year, students support AIDs orphans, schools, habitat rehabilitation, vegetable gardens, and toy libraries, all while earning credit hours and getting up close and personal with South Africa’s wildlife.

“Just last year we were able to install plumbing and running water to a local preschool,” said SNC alumna Ali Perotti.

“As an American you would question how that preschool is even legally open. Going to these communities and seeing how other people live is eye opening.”

The trip covers three sessions in the Republic of South Africa, meeting in Pretoria, in game parks, the Kruger Park, and Cape Town.

Students can earn some credits in sessions one or two, or up to 15 credits if all three sessions are attended. Students who want to travel and help the commu- nity can also do so without taking credits.

“Seeing the excitement of both SNC students and the communities with whom we work is really rewarding,” said Professor Mary Lewellen.

“Over the past five years, the communities have gotten to know us, and the parents of the schoolchildren come to help us with projects because they want a better environment for their children to learn.”

Session one, May 15-June 2, overs courses in Regional Studies Africa, Service Learning, Travel Abroad Research, Africa Research Elephants, and Travel Abroad Africa. Students can also add Independent Studyon Development Economics in Africa. Session two, June 1-9, offers a class called Community Based Resource Management.

Session three, June 8-19, is the natural history section: Cape Peninsula. Students in this section will explore the Drakensburg Mountains, Battle elds, hike the Cape Peninsula and learn about the history of the Cape.

“This trip is a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” Perotti said. “Four years of college go by fast, and once you’re done you can’t and the time to travel like this with a 40- hour work week.”

While the financial costs of class fees, international travel, and tuition may seem daunting, scholarships, federal student aid, and fundraisers can help make the trip affordable.

“Cheap summer tuition and plane flights make this a really economic trip, even cheaper than a full semester at home,” Professor Chuck Levitan said.

Professors Lewellen and Morse have led more than 11 trips to Zimbabwe and South Africa for SNC. They also lived and worked in South Africa as diplomats for more than 25 years.

“We have this expression that Africa is a disease and once you catch it there is no cure,” Lewellen said.

“Students fall in love with the experience and have attended the trip through-out college and after graduation because they see the value in helping others make a difference in their lives.”