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Seeking global perspective, S. African students visit Hub

Victor Kakulu
Seeking global perspective, S. African students visit Hub
Joined by intern Amanda Holloway (far left) and Impact Young Lives Foundation Executive Director Barbara Howard (far right), five college students from South Africa recently spent three days in Boston as part of a nine-city U.S. tour aimed at expanding the students’ perspectives on business, education and culture. (From left): Holloway, Jermaine Swartz, Gabriella Du Plessis, Rakgadi Magopa, Xolile Ndhlovu, Sibonelesihle Shabalala, Howard. (Photo: Victor Kakulu)

Five South African college students traveling across the U.S. in search of a global perspective on business, education and culture made a three-day stop in Boston last week. They called their maiden trip to the Hub an eye-opening experience.

The students were selected to take part in the 19-day, nine-city “Expose, Enlighten and Educate Experience” tour by the nonprofit Impact Young Lives Foundation. Speaking with the Banner on the second day of a three-day stay that included visits to the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Converse, Old Mutual Bank and Harvard Business School, the youth emphasized the importance of experiencing American culture firsthand.

“I’ve lived in South Africa all my life,” said 18-year-old Rakgadi Magopa. “All we know of America is what we see on TV and read in newspapers. And I’ve always wondered, ‘Is it really that?’”

While Magopa said that certain things she had heard about the U.S. — such as the availability of and accessibility to resources like the Internet — were true, the students said they were happy to learn that some others were actually incorrect.

“I sort of assumed that Americans don’t have to work as hard,” said 20-year-old Sibonelesihle Shabalala. “But on the contrary to that, Americans actually have a very robust business ethic. They work very hard and push very hard to reap the reward.”

The students said they felt optimistic about the opportunity before them to make an impact both at home and abroad, citing the “American Dream” as a source of inspiration. They were proud to see fellow native South Africans holding down senior executive capacities of various businesses, and were impressed at the humanitarian initiatives that many companies had developed to benefit various parts of Africa. Such aid programs, particularly those that augment educational opportunities, can make a major difference.

“Access to education is definitely one of the challenges we have back home,” stressed Shabalala. “There is a wider gap between those who have and those who do not.”

The Impact Young Lives Foundation works to address that gap. Created in 2000, the organization aims to provide previously disadvantaged South African students with a cross-cultural experience that includes educational assistance, cultural exposure and mentorship from a strong network of business professionals. Executive Director Barbara Howard said she believes the foundation provides key support to the individuals that will chart South Africa’s future.

“Our goal is to create global-minded citizens through educational and cross-cultural opportunities,” said Howard. “We hope to provide the students with the balance that is so necessary for South Africa to thrive. We believe in that balance.”