Discovering Africa

Tanya Marsh

Tanya Marsh

Africa seems a distant, unlikely destination for many university students and professors. However, recently two different groups from SDSU experienced that far-off place.

A group of 20 students, four faculty members and one photographer headed to four countries in West Africa for two weeks over spring break. The group was actually a class — ABS 382 — which has been studying different aspects of African life.

The trip, which let students see Ghana, Burkina Faso, Benin and Togo, was the real learning experience, senior journalism student Abby Bischoff said.

“We did these reports (on Africa) before we went and we heard professors speak who had been there before, but nothing could prepare you for what it was,” she said.

After learning about the slave, salt and gold trade, liberation, modernization, colonialization and tribal cultures, Bischoff said the class spent time doing activities related to their studies.

The class enjoyed safaris, tours of museums and a palace, and trips to wildlife refuges, which were a highlight for Bischoff.

“I really liked the monkey sanctuary because it was like you were just walking in the jungle … and then all the sudden you hear this noise, this rustling and chattering and it’s a monkey, coming up to you, like a foot away.”

She also enjoyed meeting the African children, many of whom had never seen white people before.

“We had an audience,” she said, describing children waving exuberantly from the roadside and touching the students to see if they were real.

A second educational visit to Africa involved five professors from SDSU heading to Cairo, Egypt, for a week.

Those who went abroad were Madeleine Andrawis, professor of electrical engineering and coordinator of the Teaching Learning Center; Scott Wallace, professor of visual arts; Steve Marquardt, dean of libraries; James Paulson, professor of journalism; and April Brooks, professor of history and coordinator of women’s studies.

Brooks explained the goal of the trip.

“We went to visit the American University in Cairo because we have an exchange with them and we were looking for programs where our students would fit,” she said.

Andrawis said it was important for the professors to see the country.

“I felt the faculty needed to be educated about the Egyptian culture so professors from different programs can encourage students to go on this educational experience,” she said.

Brooks said she felt that goal was met, and now she wants students to gain the broader vision of the world which she gained.

“Students need to understand the Islamic world. They need to understand that it is not all alike, that it is very different depending on here you go,” she said.

Andrawis said this vision of the Islamic world would benefit students, and that some of the courses offered through the exchange would be best learned in Egypt.

“They have areas that are specific to the region — a Middle East studies program, African student program, Egyptology program, Arabic studies,” she said. “Things like that would be very nice to take at AUC versus SDSU.”