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As our second blog post for the trip, we are collaborating on a short interview to provide our readers with insight on assimilation. Hope you enjoy!

1. What has it been like living and working with student athletes from Duke and Stanford?

Julia: I was surprised at how easy it has been spending time with other student-athletes from my school and another university. Obviously the first few days were a little more quiet but the group quickly got close and the bus rides were filled with laughter. It’s interesting to see how similar we all are even though we go to universities across the country and all play different sports. Some of us compete on turf, others on sand, one on a mat, and a few in the pool. Even with these large differences in sports, we are able to come together and collaborate on having an impact on a community. At the same time that we are able to find similarities among these differences, each of us are individuals with various skill sets that contribute to our overall goal of working with Nomzamo Township.

Araad: I first thought it was going to take a little bit of time and working through that initial awkward phase where everybody was still trying to get to know each other, but the complete opposite happened. As soon as we all met everyone got along great and meshed really well with each other to the point where we were all comfortable. I honestly haven’t laughed this hard in a while, and for that to happen with this group of people that I haven’t known for more than a couple weeks is pretty amazing. We have great team chemistry where everyone has an equal say in ideas and planning and everyone is comfortable with giving honest and productive feedback and reflection. At the same time, everyone has their personal space in the living environment, which I think leads to more productivity when it’s time to get down to work. In short, living and working with people from Stanford and Duke has been a surprisingly smooth and easy transition where we all appreciate what every single group member brings to the table to create an overall positive team chemistry.

2. How have the cultural enrichment activities helped your understanding of South African culture and history? 

J: Having the opportunities on the weekends to explore the Western Cape and hear from many perspectives has been crucial to my learning of South African history. For one, getting to hear from individuals such as a history professor at Stanford and a successful Xhosa man provided me with information on how the history of South Africa has influenced the culture of the people who live there.  With a history so recent, it’s been such an amazing opportunity to hear directly from some individuals who lived through it. This makes it easier for me to personally appreciate our traveling on the weekend. From getting a tour of the District 6 Museum from a man who was relocated himself during the apartheid era to experiencing the breathtaking views on top of Table Mountain, this has been an opportunity that makes me eager to learn more.

A: The cultural enrichment activities have really opened my mind to what is culturally relative and normal in different societies. It’s known that cultures across the world have different ways of doing things, but to see and hear the differences in concrete activities — open talks with knowledgeable speakers, visiting different historical sites such as museums, townships, etc. — really put action to the words and helped me understand cultural relativism better. It’s different to learn something in class or hear things on the news than to actually experience that culture and its norms firsthand. The enrichment activities really brought that concept to life and were vital in creating a more inclusive and open-minded perspective where we don’t create judgmental first-hand impressions of differences that we would consider strange in our society but are very normal in South African society. For example, having an individual raised in a traditional Xhosa environment explain their cultural norms compared to ours assisted me in having a more holistic and open-minded worldly perspective.

3. What can you take back from this experience to your university team?

J: I would say that it’s an impressive thing to take a group of individuals who range from various backgrounds — sports, hometown, school, culture — and be able to work together over the course of three weeks. With that being said, all ten of us had a collective goal to make an impact during our time here. On a team it’s a little different because the various backgrounds are a little less various considering the you all play the same sport and go to the same university. What is not different, however, is the collective goal among the individuals. What I have learned here in South Africa so far is that the success of collaboration is not determined by the individuals themselves but instead by the impact that the individuals are determined to leave.

“What I have learned here in South Africa so far is that the success of collaboration is not determined by the individuals themselves but instead by the impact that the individuals are determined to leave. “

A: I will take back to my own university team a lot of team-building activities from this experience that bond people more closely together and create a more inclusive atmosphere that is comfortable for everyone to participate in. I’ve learned it’s important to put any small and abstract differences aside and to realize and focus on a common goal among the group. Once everyone acknowledges the common focus and goal of why we’re all here, progress and productivity come along at a smooth pace. I will take back these experiences to my own team with the hope of building a more closely knitted team that works well with each other and is productive in accomplishing its goals.

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