By: Alberto Jones
Professor Holly McGee recently returned from seven months in South Africa where she led the History Department’s first study abroad trip to the continent and then stayed on to conduct research on her current book, a study of Black women's activism in South Africa during the Apartheid era.
The History Blog had the opportunity last week to sit down with Professor McGee and learn a little bit more about her experience:
History Blog: Where did you go in South Africa with your class? Did you do your research in the same places?
Dr. Holly McGee: During our study abroad course, we spent a month traveling all over South Africa, with stops in Cape Town, Johannesburg, Durban, and Pietermaritzburg. In July when I switched to working full-time on my manuscript project, I relocated to Lesotho for an additional 5 ½ months where I lived in a small town named Roma.
HB: Why South Africa? And what was it that drew you to take students there?
HM: One of my areas of research is South African history, and I’m really excited to be able to open up international work and travel as a viable study option for UC students, and History majors, too, of course!
HB: What did you and the students do during your month together in South Africa?
HM: The study abroad course was an intensive historical, cultural, and linguistic immersion program. Students were able to learn Zulu, live with local families, and get a real—rather than tourist-like—taste of South Africa.
HB: That sounds amazing. What are some of your most memorable moments?
HM: I convinced a number of friends and family members to make a small financial donation, and prior to leaving Lesotho was able to purchase 43 pairs of shoes and 20 outfits for children on their first day of school. It felt great making the drop-off at the local orphanage!
HB: What was one of your most memorable moments with your students?
HM: One of my favorite moments from the trip were those when I realized students had really embraced a sense of international independence. There were numerous occasions where students had the opportunity to get out and really experience South Africa without my direct supervision, and to know that they felt comfortable, safe, and secure enough to do so was really gratifying. This particular image is of a day that two students—Shameka Neely and Cierra Carter—decided to take an independent, half-day trip to Soweto. The ladies had a wonderful time visiting the city with a former resident, and even had an opportunity to visit Nelson Mandela’s home!
HB: What is something new that you learned about South African culture?
HM: Having spent years travelling back and forth to South Africa, I’m always amazed at the diversity of the country – there are so many peoples speaking very different languages there living so close together. It's the kind of thing that never fails to affect me. That and fashion. One man’s blanket is another man’s Sunday’s best...
HB: Lastly, what would you say to students thinking about a trip or a study abroad opportunity in Africa. We usually hear about study tours in Europe, sometimes Asia or Central and South America, but Africa less so. What’s your view?
HM: I would absolutely encourage everyone to travel to the continent of Africa. After all, it's the cradle of civilization.
To learn more about Professor Holly McGee or the History Department, visit our webpage :http://www.artsci.uc.edu/departments/history/byDeptMembers.html?eid=mcgeehy&thecomp=uceprof
Wrote by UC History Department