Freshman Libby Koolik recounts her life-changing spring break experience exploring global water issues in South Africa
Terrascope, a freshman learning community that tackles major global issues related to sustainability and the environment, has proven to be a learning experience unlike any I have ever heard of at another university. After spending an entire semester developing theoretical solutions to global water-security problems in the Terrascope classroom, Professor of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences Samuel Bowring – in collaboration with his colleague at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU), Professor Maarten de Wit – took forty-three students on a life-altering trip to South Africa over spring break.
The goal was to take our classroom solutions and see how successful they could be in the “real world.” Along the way, we learned about cool South African languages (including sawubona, the Zulu word for hello), geology, the effects of climate change on Africa’s water problems, South African culture and social issues, the apartheid era, and the deep love and respect the South African people have for Nelson Mandela.
I had no idea what I had signed up for when I decided to go on the trip. I vaguely expected we would go to South Africa, see some elephants, meet some NMMU students, talk about water, go home. We did see some elephants – and it was awesome! – but we did so much more. We discovered new, innovative techniques to solve many of the issues we confronted in class; learned about climate change; observed the effect of changing sea-level on the South African coastline; and explored the cave dwellings of the first homo sapiens.