Abroad in Africa


Dennise Carranza '13 of Worcester, Mass., knew she wanted to study abroad as part of her MCLA experience. When the time came to decide which country to travel to, she wanted to go somewhere relatively few college students visit: She decided upon Namibia, Africa.

This semester she is a student at Polytechnic of Namibia.

"People usually travel to Europe, Hispanic countries, the Caribbean or Asia, but we forget that Africa is there, too, and it has a very diverse culture, as well an enriching history, which I wanted to learn more about," Carranza said. "I never heard of Namibia before I found out about this study abroad program in Africa. My dream has always been to travel to a country in Africa. Through this program, I have made my dream a reality."

No stranger to international travel, Carranza is a native of Ecuador. Her older sister studied abroad in Brazil.

"I knew I had to follow in her footsteps. My sister was my inspiration to make it this far," Carranza said. "I come from a family with adventurous spirits, so I knew studying abroad was something I had to do. Also everyone such mentors and friends always told me that study abroad is an opportunity you don't want to miss out when you are in college, that it would be the best experience of my life. So here I am living this great experience."

Carranza, who majors in English/communications with a concentration in broadcasting, lives in Windhoek, the capital and largest city of the Republic of Namibia.

"It's a very well organized city. They are very accepting and welcoming people from other countries, including Germany," she explained. "Namibia was colonized by Germans. Many Germans come here and settle, and everyone seems to get along just fine. While there is racism between cultures and their tribes, at the end of the day they are all one nation."

Namibia has a unique culture, Carranza said.

"I would describe it as a tiny America because here there are people from many cultures. Even though English is the official languages, everyone speaks at least two languages. They are very civilized," she explained.

Carranza is taking classes in public relations, Namibian literature, video production, communications, and the law and intercultural communication. She finds life as a student in Namibia to be much different than that at MCLA.

"I'm still trying to adapt, but I do have a very weird schedule," she explained. "Sometimes I start classes at 7:30 a.m. and then don't go to class again until 5:15 to 9:30 p.m. Some days are long and other days are very short."  

The experience was made possible from several scholarships she was awarded, including a Benjamin A. Gilman international scholarship, which gives her the opportunity to participate in conferences in the U.S. and Namibia.

"Also, the Gilman scholarship will give me a chance to prove my leadership skills in my MCLA community by putting together an AIDS and HIV awareness program when I return," she said.

In addition to learning the Afrekan language, Carranza is learning more about Germany, since many of the students there are from that country.

"It's pretty cool to meet people who have similar dreams to mine. Some of us plan to travel during our breaks to Cape Town in South Africa, Victoria Falls in Zambia, as well as around Namibia to friend's hometown and the desert," she said. "I don't think I would be doing so many great things if I had stayed in North Adams."