Yesterday my group and I visited the Valley of a Thousand Hills to get a visual representation of what it feels like to be on top of the hill, looking down. SIT incorporated this trip into our curriculum to complement our assigned reading Welcome to the Swamp: Why Assessing Community Capacity is Fundamental to Ecohealth Work by Dr. Michael and Judie Bopp and apply what we have learned about top-down systems to a real life scenario.
We stood at the top of the hill and we were asked to describe what we saw. How the communities at the bottom looked, how the communities at the top looked, the roads that divided the land, and what might be determining these differences. We discussed how it is difficult to know what is going on down below from the top, and everything we think we “know” is based off what we can SEE. We were informed about the chemical waste dumps nearby, and what happens when the rain carries the waste through the valleys. We talked about what it would be like to look UP to power every day, and the dynamic the actual landscape creates in this community.
We admired the beauty of this land and then went to The Valley Trust Center for our daily lesson. The Valley Trust Center is an NGO located in the Valley of a Thousand Hills that focuses on sustainable community-based health initiatives. We had lunch before our lecture and I was served on an actual platter. After lunch, I spent the next 2 hours marinating in my own sweat listening to a lecture on the three main programs The Valley Trust Center is currently working on.
SIT does a phenomenal job of incorporating a kinesthetic learning approach into our lessons. We really see, feel, hear, and DO what we are learning. It’s an incredibly well-rounded agenda and I feel like each topic we discuss is thoroughly explored. I am so glad I chose this program because I feel as though I am sincerely receiving a thorough and challenging education.
Emily Smith is a global health major at the University of Iowa. A native of Cedar Rapids, IA, and 2018 Gilman Scholarship awardee, she is spending her semester in Durban, South Africa on the SIT South Africa: Community Health and Social Policy program.
Student blog entries posted to this International Accents page may not reflect the opinions and recommendations of UI Study Abroad and International Programs. The blog is intended to give students a forum for free expression of thoughts and experiences abroad in a respectful space.