The greatest adventure with the best people, my trip to South Africa and Mozambique: Laura Davis, ERM Major, INTAG, Sustainability Leadership, Watersheds and Water Resources Minors

Posted: January 4, 2013

It is experiences like these that help shape who you are; I will never be the same person that I was before I went to Africa.
Addo Elephant National Park, South Africa

Addo Elephant National Park, South Africa

This past May I traveled to South Africa and Mozambique with an embedded Forestry course. The trip began in South Africa when we flew into Johannesburg Airport. From there we made our way down to the southern coast where we first started our road trip on the Garden Route, a road that travels along the southern most end of Africa. Along this route we made several stops to learn about the natural resources of the area. We stopped at Addo Elephant National Park to see the native wildlife. We learned about the indigenous forests as well as pine plantations from local park authorities. We followed this route making many stops along the way to take in our surroundings. We were fortunate to be given a tour of PetroSA, South Africa’s national oil company. We spent time at two universities and were able to mingle with people our age. Our last stop in South Africa was Cape Town where we were able to see the famous Table Mountain. 

DavisSAfrica2.pngThe second part of our trip took us to the airport in Beira, Mozambique. From there we boarded our pink, cartoon looking bus (if we didn’t stand out already, we definitely commanded attention with this vehicle!) and started our journey to Catapu.  Catapu is a forest managed for logging. We were able to see the entire process of tree to furniture while we were there. The owner is very interested in conservation and was eager to show us how he incorporates sustainability into the operation. From there we headed to Envirotrade which is located outside of Gorongosa National Park. Envirotrade focuses on using the purchase of carbon credits as a tool to incorporate conservation agriculture practices into the surrounding villages. The money used to purchase the carbon credits is used to provide farmers with trees that they then intercrop into their fields. The trees stabilize carbon, as well as the soil in the field. We also spent time in Gorongosa National Park, where we saw many animals including warthogs, eagles, a monitor lizard, an elephant, and numerous antelopes and monkeys. Part of me never left this country; I think about it frequently and hope to return someday. 

DavisSAfrica3.pngThis experience has taught me that life as I know it in Pennsylvania does not translate to life everywhere. Expectations can be a hindrance, you need to go with the flow and take everything in.  This trip has really helped me to step outside of myself, and truly appreciate another culture. 

I would describe this experience to potential employers as an example of my willingness to leave my comfort zone. Leaving your friends and family behind to travel to a new continent with new languages and different cultures can be an intimidating feat, but the benefits far outweigh the troubles. The knowledge you can gain by collaborating, sharing different perspectives and ideas, and embracing diversity is essential for addressing a problem from all angles. Travelling has made me think “outside of the box”, and rely on my critical thinking skills.