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Where do I even begin? I’ve been so busy experiencing the many wonderful things that South Africa has to offer that I can’t even decide what experience to share. For that reason, I will share a little bit of everything. The top two photos are the Golden Gate Mountains located in Free State, South Africa. I was able to capture these beautiful pictures on my way to Phuthaditjhaba where the University of the Free State (UFS) QwaQwa campus is located. The QwaQwa campus is one of three UFS campuses, which requires me to write another blog post because I can’t even explain how amazing that campus is! The bottom left picture is when I attended a TEDx on the Bloemfontein campus. Various presenters spoke on the subject of asking the question why. What made this evening memorable is that I experienced load shedding for the first time of my life. For those of you who don’t know what load shedding is I will give a brief explanation. Load shedding is when the electricity company does not have enough electricity to provide to the demand of all their customers. In order to meet demand, the electricity company interrupts supply to certain areas during a specific time. In my case, I experience load shedding on a Thursday from 6-8pm. Load shedding in South Africa is important in order to balance electricity supply and demand, including to avoid the collapse of electricity supply. Even though load shedding happened during the TEDx event, we continued the presentations and had dinner in the dark (picture on the bottom right).

White water river rafting in Clarens, South Africa.


Today I conquered my fear! For those of you who don’t know me, I would like to tell you that I highly dislike large bodies of water. Besides the fact that I don’t know how to swim, I have a huge fear of open bodies of water. I should backtrack to tell you how I got into this situation of white water river rafting. A few weeks ago when I was completing my registration form to participate in the Global Leadership Summit at the University of the Free State, I was asked to choose three activities. At the time, I decided I would choose two safe activities that I felt comfortable with and one that went outside my comfort zone. Typically, I participate in activities that I am familiar with, are considered safe, and are indoors. So at the moment I had decided to be spontaneous and choose white water river rafting because I thought, “When will I ever get the opportunity to white water river raft in South Africa again”? That same thought is what got me into the situation that I was in today. Considering the luck that I have, I was given the activity that didn’t fall into my comfort zone. As much as I wanted to try something new, I secretly wanted to get my safe choice activity. Of course, I was given the activity that in my opinion was most challenging since it involved adapting to the harsh weather conditions while being mentally and physically active. On this particular day, it was cold and windy and the water was freezing. Even though I was extremely scared throughout the ride and wanted to give up on numerous occasions, my group reassured me that I would be okay. I didn’t fully believe them considering the wind was picking up and our instructor indicated that there was a high chance of falling over. But even with doubt and fear, I decided to stick through it. I will add that before going over the G4 rapid, I wanted to get off. I was scared and didn’t think I would make it without falling off. Well, I decided to stay on and finish the last rapid and fortunately I made it out alive. I cannot express how liberating it felt to have challenged myself and in the end succeed. Today I showed courage and I am proud to say that I white water river rafted on the Ash River in Clarens, South Africa. I would encourage anyone studying abroad to try something new and challenge oneself. I will say, be careful on what you choose because even though I got such an amazing adrenaline rush, this has been my first and LAST time white water river rafting. It was super fun but you won’t catch me doing that in the United States.

Bloemfontein, South Africa


07/08/2015, Blog by Jessica Velasquez , Society, Ethics and Human Behavior & American Ethnic Studies, Rec­on­cil­i­a­tion via Dig­i­tal Sto­ry­telling in the US and South Africa


Participating in the Social Justice in Higher Education in the US and South Africa: Reconciliation has been one of the greatest experiences of my life so far! I cannot express how fortunate I have been by being able to be part in the Global Leadership Summit at the University of the Free State in Bloemfontein, South Africa. Everyday I get to experience something new and today I had the opportunity to visit Naval Hill where Nelson Mandela’s statue stands overlooking Bloemfontein. I was there for over two hours and was able to capture great photos of the late president and the sunset. This six-meter tall statute of former president Nelson Mandel honors his significant impact of ending the war of apartheid in South Africa. His contribution to the country and around the world influenced me in such a way that I plan to create an event at UW Bothell where faculty, staff, and students get the opportunity to honor him for one minute for every year of Mandela’s public service. Typically, we would honor him on July 18th, the day of his birthday, but since most students are out of school by then we would incorporate this event sooner. The purpose of celebrating Mandela Day at UW Bothell will be to call to action for people to recognize their individual power and create change on campus and in the community for the better, which I think would be powerful.

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world” -Nelson Mandela