CMC class trades essays and finals for trip to South Africa |

CMC class trades essays and finals for trip to South Africa

Ben Ingersoll

— Colorado Mountain College students enrolling in Sociology 218 and Anthropology 221 this semester won't be taking your typical college course with midterms, essays and finals.

During the next four months, the group will be taking part in online and group discussions and delving into social and cultural readings on the country of South Africa. And while most CMC students are wrapping up the spring semester and starting their summer breaks, these students will be boarding planes and taking part in an experiential learning opportunity in South Africa.

CMC professors Martyn Kingston and Jen LeRoux are leading the trip, which is open to all students and community members across the 11 campuses in Colorado.

LeRoux, who is from South Africa, said it's an opportunity for students to connect with the country's social and cultural origins and landscape that can't be found in a textbook. Kingston, who earned his Ph.D. by studying about South Africa at Harvard University, will lead the sociology course with online readings and group discussions in hopes of preparing students go into the country fully prepared to ask questions and dispel common myths about life as a South African.

"The trip is for just bringing alive the caricatures of other places," Kingston said. "America does so much through film and popular media. Everything is quick, shallow, stereotypical."

The students' three weeks in South Africa are jam packed with tours and activities in numerous cities across the country. The class will arrive in Johannesburg and tour its university and landscape. The next stop is Soweto, a city west of Johannesburg to tour small businesses.

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A day later, they will visit the U.S. Embassy, Freedom Park and Voortrekker Monument in Pretoria before flying to Cape Town, South Africa's largest city.

In Cape Town, the class will have opportunities to visit wineries, the university, a penguin sanctuary and even Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela spent 18 of his 27 years in prison.

"From my own experience, going places, just literally being the receiver, things hit you in the face," Kingston said. "You can't hide from it. You're there. I think it will be interesting for them. I don't think you even need to teach anything."

The trip was entitled "Race, State and Nation-Building," the topic of Kingston's Harvard thesis. Kingson said he doesn't want to bog students down with thick reading packets or time-consuming assignments. He'd rather the students come in prepared to ask intelligent questions and journal thoughtful responses along the way.

LeRoux said a lot of the trip's sponsorship has come from Augsburg College's Center for Global Education, which has led past CMC class trips to places like Cuba and Guatemala.

"The Center for Global Education is able to get us access into those deeper places so we're not out skimming around on our own," LeRoux said.

Upon return from South Africa the first week of June, the students will pull material from their trip journals and give a presentation to the community and others at CMC.

CMC students and community members interested in making the trip have until Feb. 3 to submit a $100 deposit to lock in their spot. Class registration is Feb. 28 and the trip's full payment is due March 18.

Total fees, which cover all airfare, hotels, tours and most meals will cost in the realm of $4,200 and $4,900 on top of CMC tuition, depending on how many sign up to go.

"Really, it's just an entry into a broad, experiential learning study of Southern Africa," Kingston said. "Again, we're trying to pick all these things to be interesting but variable, so they don't just get a limited view."

To reach Ben Ingersoll, call 970-871-4204, email or follow him on Twitter @BenMIngersoll

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