Back to Africa

Dr. Craig Brookins and the Study Abroad group in Africa

When he was a graduate student back in the 1980s, Dr. Craig 'Kwesi' Brookins took his first study abroad trip to Kenya to learn the Kiswahili language. He is now an Associate Professor of Psychology at NC State, but Brookins still has a passion to lead students on study abroad trips to various parts of Africa. For him, the trips serve almost as an annual pilgrimage to what he considers the motherland, but for the students who travel with him, it's much, much more.

NC State's Africana Studies Program and University Study Abroad Office developed this program in 1997, and since that time have offered well over 200 students unique opportunities in many parts of Africa. Participants may study, engage in service learning or conduct research for a semester, for an entire academic year, during Spring Break, or through four- to six-week summer programs.

But, although the focus is on study and research, Brookins says that these programs can also change lives. "It humbles you, educates you, opens your eyes, and motivates you to want to do more with your life than you even realized was possible."

Many students who study abroad for the first time are not prepared for the cultural transition -- some don't even have passports, much less a connection with their host country. Brookins suggests that prior to a trip, students should read about the people, the culture, and the politics they will encounter. It's also important to have a grasp of past and present connections between the host country and the United States. Preparation offers a solid base for the experiences to come!

After leading many study abroad trips, Brookins says that the first two weeks are the most challenging for students because they have a difficult time '. . .pulling themselves out of their American selves." Odd as it may seem, our modern technology -- cell phones, mp3s, laptops, iPads, etc. -- actually tends to insulate us from the rest of the world. But Brookins guarantees that study abroad students will grow beyond the insulation and America pace of life.

Students slow down as they learn and adapt to the ways of their host country. They slow their thinking, their perceived need for instant gratification changes, and because they make a human connection with the local people, they also gain a perspective on the world that becomes more inclusive of others.

The Study Abroad program is open to both undergraduate and graduate students, and most receive some scholarship support. If you're up to the challenge of exploring Africa, see upcoming programs and additional information at the Africana Studies or Study Abroad web sites.

Special thanks to Gennaro Salamone of Enduring Wanderlust for some material included in this article.

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