Global perspectives South Africa trip canceled due to safety concerns

Application deadline extended to Nov. 2 for those who would like to apply for the New Zealand trip

By Wes Cruse | November 2, 2018 10:30am

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Cape Town, South Africa. Photo Courtesy of Unsplash 

The Global Perspectives on Leadership trip to South Africa has been canceled due to safety concerns in the country during the time when the visit was slated to take place. The U.S. has advised exercising increased caution in South Africa since the upcoming elections could pose a potential safety risk. Instead, the leadership trip will take place in New Zealand, the international destination of last year’s program. 

The opportunity to study leadership abroad is offered in conjunction with LDR-391: Global Perspectives on Leadership, which is offered in the spring of 2019. Students interested in going to New Zealand for this experience are required to apply for the program by Friday, Nov. 2. 

Director of Studies Abroad, Eduardo Contreras, said that the decision to cancel the plan to go to South Africa this upcoming May was influenced by a number of factors involving safety concerns. Currently, the U.S. State Department suggests exercising increased caution in South Africa, which Contreras said was a bit of a concern. 

Contreras also said that the plan to go and do a site visit in South Africa before the May trip fell through unexpectedly, so there was never an opportunity to go assess the situation there more closely. The study abroad department couldn’t get the timing right to visit this fall and visiting in the spring would be too late to make a decision since students would have already committed to the program by then. 

“The fact that we couldn’t get a site visit out just gave us too many intangible elements to make us feel that it would be safe to have a program there,” Contreras said.

Upcoming elections in South Africa are a potential safety concern. While the specific date of the elections isn’t set yet, it’s expected to occur in May, the month when students would’ve been there on the program. Contreras said that South African elections have the potential to be violent and spur instances of petty crime.

Contreras said that he only knew of one student who had pulled out of the program over the change from South Africa to New Zealand. He said that South Africa could still be a destination in the future for the leadership class. He also said that Houglum wants to consider other country destinations for the program such as India. 

“The important thing to know is that this is a program that was very successful the first year and so the Global Perspective on Leadership Program is a thriving program that offers students a kind of unique overseas opportunity,” Contreras said.

While New Zealand might appeal to some students, others were upset to learn they wouldn’t be going to South Africa. Junior Brooke Paulsen said that she was really attracted to the idea of traveling to South Africa. She has a passion for learning about marginalized people and going to South Africa represented an opportunity for her to deepen that interest. 

“As a sociology major, my focus is on cultures that are not the majority, not the privileged cultures,” Paulsen said. 

The Global Perspectives on Leadership program was created by David Houglum, the director of leadership. It offers students a chance to explore leadership principles in an international context by including a study abroad experience in May, at the end of the course. The program began last year with a group of students who traveled to New Zealand in May 2018. 

“I would love to go to New Zealand, and I’m happy to continue on that track,” Paulsen said. “I’m still wanting to go, but I’m still just disappointed that it happened in this way.”

Wes Cruse is a reporter for The Beacon. He can be reached at cruse20@up.edu. 

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