No Time for Lion Around

"Every time you go somewhere, it changes you a little bit. There is so much to gain from going abroad. It makes you a more well-rounded person and a more global person."

Bethany Gerlach - 31 January 2019

Two students, Naomi Potter and Hannah Kulmatycki, both took part in the South African Field School this past summer, and it proved to be a memorable experience for the two. While they initially went for the course credit they needed, they both remember it as an adventure full of excitement. They got to take part in incredible, once-in-a-lifetime opportunities, like coming face to face with the wildlife of Africa, bungee jumping, and swimming with humpback whales. This unique program entailed three modules, with five courses total, all focused on hands on learning on the science of the natural world. Hannah went for the first two modules, while Naomi stayed for the full program.

The first module was a month long, and focused on terrestrial ecology, based on the wildlife and environment of eSwatini (formerly known as Swaziland). This entailed working in a safari in the famous Kruger National Park. They stayed in the park the entire time, completely immersed in the environment. They were so close to the wildlife that Naomi and Hannah could hear the lions roar at night, and experienced the sight of baboons, impalas, lions, leopards, rhinos, buffaloes, elephants, and more right in front of them.

The second month was the aquatic module, focusing on marine life and ocean studies in Mozambique. This research was very hands-on, not simply watching the ocean from the shore. Hannah and Naomi had the opportunity to learn through scuba diving.

"I got to see sharks, turtles and eels, all underwater," Hannah remembers. "It was so calming being underwater. It gives you a new perspective, it flips your world upside-down."

For Hannah and Naomi, the highlight of their time in Africa was the time they spent by the ocean. The two grew to love studying and relaxing by the water, a pastime they couldn't normally experience in landlocked Alberta.

The two girls grew significantly from their studies in Africa. For Naomi, it helped her to relax a bit, and to not sweat the small stuff. "I may still be very type A, but I am definitely less so than I was before I left," she recalls.

For example, she laughingly recalled a story of how she took a short trip from Capetown to Johannesburg. Normally, as Naomi recalled, she would have been overthinking every little thing, packing anything she could need but likely wouldn't use.

"But I just shrugged!" she laughs. "I remember thinking, 'As long as I've got my passport, everything will work out.'"

For Hannah, it inspired her to refine her plans for the future. Being in Africa ignited a passion to work in sustainability- she now has a goal to do her masters in international development studies, or NGO development and management. Hannah is now working towards receiving her certificate in international learning, and can talk at length on the importance of saving endangered animals.

"Being a part of the bigger picture is so important to me. I miss saving these creatures and working in conservation, I never would have thought I'd enjoy something like it so much." she reflects.