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Adventures in South Africa and Mozambique 2012: Ashley Pilipovich, Environmental Resource Management

Posted: September 29, 2012

It was the most valuable learning experience I have ever been a part of!
Ashley (in purple) along with two other students and a local child relaxing on the beach of the Indian ocean in South Africa about an hour away from Cape Town, South Africa.

Ashley (in purple) along with two other students and a local child relaxing on the beach of the Indian ocean in South Africa about an hour away from Cape Town, South Africa.

In the month of May this past year I had the opportunity to travel to the countries of South Africa and Mozambique for three weeks. We started our trip in South Africa and traveled along the garden route along the eastern coast of Africa. Our first night was spent in Port Elizabeth we left very early the next morning after having breakfast on the beach, to head to our first national park. There we did a couple of drives through the park and saw varies exotic animals up close. We followed an elephant along the road and watched herds of them drink from the watering hole, saw zebra, karabo, warthogs, hyenas, and many other animals as well. We then headed down the coast to Tiskiuma national park where we went on a series of suspension bridges, ziplining, and did a polar bear plung in the Indian ocean.

Our next couple stays were closer to a college town around Stellenbosh University where we talked with students our age and shared culture differences and similarities. We also visited the schools themselves and listened to environment related lectures and visited forest plantations and conservation sites.

PilipovichSA2.pngAfter those incredible experiences we then traveled to Mozambique. This was a totally different experience from South Africa. It was a much poorer place where people’s homes were made of straw and sticks along the side of the one main road in the country. We stayed at a lumber yard, where the owner would take people from the local community and not only give them jobs but would teach them skills to make bowls, mirrors, spoons, etc. out of wood to sell. It was interesting to see how the plantation worked and that they were helping the whole community, however, communication with the locals was difficult due to the language barrier. We continued our trip to a place called Envirotrade where we saw how the company is making buildings more green, educating local children, and helping the local community. This was my favorite place; I really enjoyed talking to them and learning what they are doing for the environment and the animals. They work with a national park that has no fences around it to help keep the animals and the surrounding community safe. We also had campfires and watch sunsets on mountain tops.

This trip has taught me a lot about different cultures, different environmental issues and solutions, different forestry techniques and processes, along with a bunch of other stuff that I will never forget. The main skill that I gained from this experience was looking at problems from various angles. Multiple disciplines were included in this trip so when a topic or issue came up in conversation or during one of our tours, lectures, etc. each major had a different point of view to add to the solution or discussion. PilipovichSA3.pngIt was very interesting and this skill will really help me not only in the rest of my academic career but in everyday life and my future career as well.

If asked to describe this experience to a potential employer I would describe it as the best learning process you can have. You learn everything in one trip and it makes a bigger impression on you and your memory than listening to it in a lecture or reading it in a book. You actually learn how to communicate with someone not only with a different personality but from a totally different culture. You also learn how to look at problems from different angles and outside of the box. It was the most valuable learning experience I have ever been a part of.