June 24, 2015
Abriel Newton's Global Opportunities trip to South Africa wasn't her first travel abroad. As a high school student she went to England, France and Spain. But the rising senior creative writing major from Elysburg, Pa., said experiencing the culture in South Africa as part of her college studies was more meaningful.
"There seems to be something that the people I met in South Africa 'get' that I don't, something that I cannot put words to," Newton said. "Maybe because of a lack of material possessions, the people focused more on each other, and relationships, and things that actually matter."
Newton traveled to South Africa on Susquehanna University's GO program, Travel Writing in South Africa. The 10-day experience was based in the village of Mdumbi, just feet from the Indian Ocean. Students met with traditional diviners and chiefs, enjoyed cultural foods and visited one of the biggest handicrafts markets in Africa-all while setting aside journaling time to capture their experiences in a travel essay.
Newton has many fond memories that worked their way into her travel essays, most notably the people she met.
"Dudu, my house mama in Mdumbi, prayed for us in her guest hut in the middle of the night," Newton remembered. "I'd never encountered someone who cared so sincerely about the well-being of almost complete strangers."
Newton also remembered a village dance performance.
"The dancers moved with grace and pride, but more tremendously, with heart," she said. "They were unbelievably passionate and unabashed. It was almost as if self-consciousness did not exist here."
And that may have been the most profound lesson Newton took home from South Africa-a realization that sometimes, in the absence of confidence, you need to fake it.
"I'm coming to realize that I have to put shyness aside, pretend that I'm confident, and really get in the situation quickly, and get it for all that it's worth," Newton said. "I think that anyone can make the most of any situation if they pour themselves completely into it."