Summer in South Africa: A Day in the Life


By Sydney Harris, Howard University ’17

Sydney was a student in our Summer 2016 Global Health Issues in South Africa program. She describes a day in the life during the homestay portion of the program below.

Today I woke up to the sounds of roosters crowing, the smell of a fire being burned for boiling water, and the sunrise peaking out, indicating that the day was to begin. The pace of life slowed drastically as we observed the daily habits of our host mom and neighboring homes.

These included her mother-in-law, sister-in-law, as well as many children playing while on holiday. We were the centers of attention, the awkward visitors; “makua” and were constantly reminded of it. I was never the girl to camp, or to spend the majority of her days outside, or to sit idle for periods of time, so the entire day worked to test my boundaries and what was comfortable to me. But I loved

I loved being invited into our homestay and being trusted to watch over and play with the children in the area. I loved learning about how similar things back home were done in completely different ways here.

The past days at this homestay have paralleled what the trip so far has done for me; it has given me a perspective that I lacked in my education thus far. It gave me a way to look at health and life from the lens of the children who have to walk 2 miles to get bread and the mom who must grow many of the things she eats. Truly it has humbled me and taught me to respect others for the way they live and the way that they make do with what they have, no matter where in the world.

Fiery-Throated Hummingbird in Costa Rica


By Philip Vanbergen, University of Louisiana, Lafayette ’18

Philip was a student on our Summer 2016 Tropical Biology program in Costa Rica.

Before my first trip to Costa Rica, the tropical rainforest was a foreign and faraway place that I only knew through nature documentaries and science classes. It wasn’t until I was able to experience the tropics myself that it became real for me. I had never seen such a rich variety of flora and fauna, and as soon as I got back to the states, I immediately started researching and learning more about this strange and beautiful part of the world. It was during this period of research that I learned about the OTS Tropical Biology Course, and as I learned more about the program, I wanted more and more to experience it as part of my college career.

I applied for the Tropical Biology course for the summer of 2016, and thankfully was accepted. I spent the next several months learning as much as I could about Costa Rica and the tropics in general as I prepared for the course. I would read and re-read field guides of birds, amphibians, reptiles, and plants to become acquainted with the natural history of the area. I was awe-struck by the beautiful and bizarre nature of the tropical plants and animals, and couldn’t wait to experience them myself.

One such animal I learned about was the fiery-throated hummingbird, a gorgeous hummingbird of the high, montane wet forests of Costa Rica and Panama. I had hopes of seeing one during the course, but I had no idea that I would have such an intimate encounter with the species. During our stay in the Costa Rican highlands, I found myself within arm’s length of dozens of fiery-throated hummingbirds, which allowed me to take this photo with my i-phone. This is just one example of the many amazing animals I was fortunate enough to encounter, and I learned more during the course than I could have ever expected. All in all, this course will be one of the great highlights of my college career.

Collecting Water in Sanari Village


By Oscar Miao, Yale University ’17

Oscar was a student on our Summer 2016 Global Health Issues in South Africa  program. This program includes a homestay in a Venda community in HaMakuya. Oscar describes a day in the life during this part of the program below.

We wake up to the sounds of chatter and laughter outside our rondavel, a traditional African-style hut. I slowly get out of my sleeping bag, releasing a low moan of pain from sleeping on impenetrable cement. I fill up my bottle from a tank, and head outside of our rondavel to brush my teeth with the prepared water. Brush, gulp, and spit – a routine for brushing without a tap. Our homestay mother recognizes that we are up, and serves a straw basket full of fruit, bread, and tea.

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