June 14, 2011
Chestnut Hill, MA -
Bouchelle's Photo Gallery
Julia Bouchelle will be a senior midfielder for the Boston College women's soccer team. In the spring semester, Bouchelle went abroad to South Africa. An All-ACC honoree this past fall, Bouchelle is the first women's soccer player to be allowed to study abroad.
By Julia Bouchelle
This past semester, I was given the opportunity to study abroad in Cape Town, South Africa. Cape Town, one of the most beautiful cities in the world, is entirely surrounded by large, pristine mountains and the Atlantic Ocean. I spent most days in class, relaxing on the beach, hiking various mountains, and serving the community.
I attended the University of Cape Town, the highest ranked university in Africa and lived in a large off-campus house with 20 other international exchange students, two of which were also from Boston College
My courses for the semester were Film History, Environmental History and Environmental Sustainability. Although there were only three courses, the classes were all very interesting and very time consuming. The classes included several lectures a week, discussion groups, and a few field trips to local villages where we investigated the human interaction with the environment.
Throughout my time there, I learned so much about the history of South Africa. In a country where racial segregation was only outlawed in 1994, there are still remnants of discrimination today. Race is an openly discussed subject where most of society is socially divided into White, Coloured or Black communities. Outside the developed city, impoverished people live in communities of informal shacks with no electricity or running water, called "Townships". It was so interesting to see somewhat first world and third world cultures living alongside one another. In various instances, I too experienced first-hand the existing racial prejudices when I went to dinner or at the beach with my friends of different race.
Every Monday I taught seventh grade students English and Math in a township called Khayelitsha. The kids loved this after school program because they could play games and feel safe instead of returning to their dangerous home lives. This was a truly rewarding experience because I formed a bond with the kids by simply spending time with them. I felt I was making an impact on their lives.
While staying in Cape Town, I was fortunate enough to attend two professional men's soccer games. The first was in a small stadium where the Cape Town Ajax beat the Johannesburg Pirates. The second was in Cape Town's Greenpoint World Cup Stadium where Cape Town Ajax tied a team from Maritzburg.
The environment at a soccer match was unbelievable. It was nice to see fans so passionate about soccer. Groups of fans shouted the team's chants, waved flags and, of course, loudly blew into vuvuzelas. The World Cup in 2010 seemed to be one of the best things that happened to South Africa, the people constantly talk about their World Cup experiences and how much the tournament benefited the country as a whole. I also saw the stadiums in Johannesburg, Port Elizabeth, Durban and Nelspruit.
For our winter holiday, four friends and I flew to Durban, a city on the east coast of South Africa. We drove north through Swaziland and into Mozambique. We went on a safari, snorkeled in a coral reef and spent the majority of the trip in the Portuguese speaking Mozambique. We toured the capital Maputo, explored authentic markets in a small beach town called Tofo, and relaxed on some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. It was so interesting to learn that Portuguese is spoken in Africa because Portuguese colonists founded Mozambique. And of course, I picked up some words in Portuguese from the market vendors.
Over our Easter holiday, two friends and I drove south from Cape Town to Port Elizabeth along a beautiful stretch of highway known as the Garden route. We went on a safari where we saw zebra, kudu, buffalo, rhino, and hundreds of elephants. On our way home, we did the world highest bungee jump off the Bloukrans Bridge. The jump was 216 meters and the most exhilarating experience I have ever had.
Later in the semester, I attended an art festival for six days in the Karoo Desert called Afrika Burns. People from all over the world live in an environmentally friendly community where nothing is for sale. It is entirely focused on gift giving and leaving no trace on the environment. Artists construct and display large, wooden sculptures that are burned at the end of the week in an act of celebration and radical self-expression. This week of camping with limited resources taught me to live a simple lifestyle and the importance of constantly giving oneself to the community.
Overall this experience was truly life changing. I cannot thank BC Athletics enough for giving me the opportunity to study abroad in South Africa. I feel so fortunate to be one of few BC athletes to study internationally because I know how rarely we are given the opportunity. Thank you especially to my coaches Alison Foley and Neel Bhattacharjee, as well as Aaron Aaker, Gene DeFilippo, Tom Peters and the entire administration, and everyone else who was responsible for making this experience possible. This has been my dream before arriving at Boston College. The fact that my coaches and the BC administration were willing to assist me in fulfilling this dream makes me feel truly blessed. I believe traveling is so important because of the unbounded lessons you can learn from experiencing other cultures. I've learned so much about African culture, the importance of giving back to the community, and especially about myself. I honestly wouldn't change it for the world.