For some, the first round of the BOSP application process causes a bit of worry. Junior Lauren Carter received her acceptance to Santiago, Chile on the 23rd. “I thought my chances [of being accepted] were pretty good, but at the same time, I was nervous because you’re still applying for something. There’s a chance you won’t get accepted,” she said.
But in actuality, the chances of getting into the program of your choice may be higher than many students realize. Indeed, only one program has such a long waiting list that it will not participate in the second-round application process. That program will be held in Cape Town, South Africa.
Cape Town is BOSP’s newest addition to its international lineup. The new program’s first group of students will be attending during this upcoming Winter quarter. One of those students is Junior Craig Dabney. When asked what he is most looking forward to, Dabney responded, “I wish to see for myself apartheid’s resonating effects on racial tensions and disparities in South Africa.” Until 1993, apartheid, the heavily institutionalized system of segregation that minimized the interactions between its white and colored populations, burdened South Africa. Undoubtedly, post-apartheid South Africa will be a topic of both discussion and study for the Winter 2010 students, but it will be only one of many topics they will cover.
While they will be the first students in this permanent upcoming program, the Winter 2010 Stanford in Cape Town students will not be the first student roots to support the program’s development. In both 2006 and 2008, BOSP conducted pilot study-abroad programs in Cape Town. The students in these programs engaged in a curriculum that included a combination of academic studies, community service, and community research with local NGOs. Regarding her experience with the program, pilot program participant Claire Gibson once wrote, “My eleven weeks in Cape Town served as [an] invaluable introduction to the interconnectedness between a community’s history and its health and development.”
Timothy Stanton, director of the upcoming Stanford in Cape Town program as well as both pilot programs, took student feedback seriously in an effort to shape the direction of the new program. “In addition [to student evaluations], I am in touch with many of these students and have sought their ideas as we have made plans for the new program,” he said in an e-mail.
Stanton has significant experience in directing public service programs here at Stanford. He is the former director of both the Haas Center for Public Service as well as the Scholarly Concentration in Community Health and Public Service at Stanford Medical School.
The program’s service-learning and research focus sets Cape Town apart from its peer study-abroad programs. Students have the opportunity to truly engage with the locale in which they study in a particularly personal way. Junior Alexandra Kaplan will participate in the Spring 2010 program and anticipates the program’s service-learning aspect. She said, “What I’m most looking forward to is the hands-on experience while interacting with locals and other students in the program.”
Thus, the program becomes more than a simple transplantation of Stanford University to South Africa. Rather, it becomes an interactive experience that enables students to build a more comprehensive understanding of their foreign surroundings.
However, Cape Town has a reputation as a dangerous city in which foreigners are particularly vulnerable. Stanford in Cape Town participants will be embedding themselves in a community that many consider dangerous. Stanton encourages taking preventative measures and wise decisions to maintain personal safety in Cape Town. To future participants with concerns, he offers, “If one uses ‘street smarts’ and is thoughtful about where and when and with whom one travels, there is little chance of any problem. Most people in Cape Town—visitors and residents alike—lead normal, secure lives. They just take more precautions than we do at a place like Stanford.”
In all, Stanton’s experience with Stanford in Cape Town has not only been shaped by the locale, but also by the students who participate in the program. When asked what the most rewarding part of his administrating experience has been, he said that it was “having the privilege to teach and work with superb students who are committed to learning from and serving South African citizens with such care, sensitivity and compassion; and doing so working with marvelous people in one of the most vibrant, dynamic, and interesting social environments one can imagine.” He followed, “And it doesn’t hurt that Cape Town is a beautiful place too.”
The students who participated in the previous pilot programs tended to walked away from Stanford in Cape Town with positive outlooks on the program and their experiences with it. On the BOSP website, Senior Enumale Agada said about her 2008 experience, “I could not recommend this program highly enough. It is without a doubt one of the best things that I have ever done during my time here at Stanford or anywhere for that matter!”
Undoubtedly, Stanford in Cape Town has much to offer those who seek to live and learn and volunteer in the same community. Certainly, student interest in Cape Town is extremely high. Additionally, the coordinating team has shown great interest in developing and implementing a program that protects the interests and safety of Stanford students, but much of that work will also depend on the will and direction of those students. Any serious and comprehensive analysis of the program can only be made once we see how all aspects come together and function in practice.