On December 5, the world fell into mourning as the modern day symbol of the fight against oppression, Nelson Mandela, passed away at age 95.
A group of Millersville University students and faculty members studying in South Africa last June witnessed the outpouring of support as Mandela recovered from the same lung infection that would eventually claim his life.
“Everyone was constantly watching the news to see how Mandela was doing,” said junior Lauran Seitz. “There were signs all throughout South Africa saying, ‘Get well Mandela’ and ‘We love you.’ Being a witness to such historic events was incredible.”
For two weeks, the students took classes on apartheid and women’s activism with government and political affairs associate professor, Dr. Robert Bookmiller, and associate professor of history and director of women’s studies, Dr. Tracey Weis.
During their stay, the students spent time touring landmarks such as Robben Island Prison, where Mandela was incarcerated from 1964 to 1982, and his home in Soweto.
During the commotion surrounding Mandela’s health, the students were led by a guide to an informal meeting with someone whom, at the time, had remained nameless. During their meeting, the students and two professors realized they were in the living room of Denis Goldberg, a man who had fought side-by-side with Nelson Mandela in their battle against apartheid and was convicted along with Mandela of treason in 1964.
“Goldberg is truly a remarkable man,” Seitz said of the meeting. “Being in the house of Goldberg and having a personal interview with him is still a surreal memory.”
The experiences gained from the trip were not limited to just those of historical value. Students were also able to take away a newly found sense of the culture and aesthetic beauty of South Africa.
“The atmosphere in South Africa in general was amazing and very uplifting,” Seitz said. “Cape Town is possibly the prettiest city I have ever seen.”
Though the trip abroad lasted only two weeks, Seitz and the 11 other Millersville students were able to experience the culture and beauty of South Africa firsthand, giving new insights into the storied life of Nelson Mandela and the history of the nation he came to lead.
On Christmas Day, Mandela’s biopic “Long Walk to Freedom” will open nationwide. The film’s debut comes nearly two decades after the release of the former president’s autobiography of the same name.