Sojourn in South Africa
Location: Rhodes University
After her semester abroad in South Africa, Ashley Elmore ’15 hopes to join the Peace Corps after graduation to return to the continent to work.
Ashley Elmore ’15 grew interested in the Peace Corps after learning about it in high school, and that interest has only grown after a semester studying at Rhodes University in South Africa. Now, the business management major hopes to hear this spring whether she will be asked to join the organization to work in Botswana after graduation.
“I miss it. I want to go back,” says Elmore, who has minors in economics and law and spent last spring abroad. “I had a great time studying in South Africa, and I learned about other countries on the continent from friends that I met there. I decided to apply for a site there, which led to Botswana. I hope to learn about the people and also teach them about the United States. We learn so many bad things about other countries and vice versa, and I just want to see other places and cultures for myself so that I have my own perception of the truth.”
Part of Elmore’s inspiration for traveling to Africa came from talking with Lisa Daniels, the College’s Hodson Trust associate professor of economics who is also an associate professor in the international studies program. Daniels began her work in Africa in 1982 when she joined the Peace Corps in Cameroon; she went on to work and live for eight years in Africa on a variety of economic development projects in seven countries, Botswana among them.
Elmore had never been out of the United States when she boarded a plane in January 2014, bound for Grahamstown, South Africa. “The business major here requires a global piece, so you can either study abroad or take two global business classes. I always wanted to study abroad anyway, so I went to Kate McCleary [director of the Global Education Office] and made it happen.” She chose South Africa, she says, to get a chance to visit Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela was jailed for 27 years during the apartheid years.
She did that and more. In between her studies at Rhodes, Elmore traveled with friends she met at school to Table Mountain in Cape Town; Cape Alguhas, the southernmost point on the continent where the Indian and Atlantic oceans meet; and Johannesburg, Durban, and Cape Elizabeth. She came face to face with zebras, elephants, and warthogs while visiting Addo Elephant National Park, and went ziplining at Tsitsikamma Falls—“I was actually pretty scared but I mustered up all the courage in me and I did it,” she wrote on her blog. She learned how to drive on the “wrong” side of the road, visited some of the country’s famously gorgeous beaches, and stayed in a hostel that was also a train. She also learned how to speak some Xhosa and Shona, two of the native language of her friends. “I think it’s respectful and important to learn their language,” she says.
Her classes at Rhodes were interesting, but because it’s a much larger school than WAC, at times she was attending lectures with hundreds of other students. The experience made her appreciate WAC’s small class sizes and close community even more.
While here, Elmore has been involved with Habitat for Humanity and the Washington College to Wall Street program. She was the Black Student Union secretary in 2012-2013 and president of Cleopatra’s Sisters in 2013. Ultimately she hopes to go to law school with the intention of becoming a lawyer who helps the disenfranchised and those who can’t afford legal counseling.