(From the Minnesota Private College Council Newsletter, January 2012)
Don’t call this South Africa tour a “trip”
For Ruth Lin, the conductor of the Gustavus Adolphus College symphony orchestra, taking nearly 60 student musicians to South Africa is a valuable educational experience — and one that shouldn’t be confused with a vacation. “This is so much more than a trip,” she said. “It’s an international class.”Every four years at Gustavus, the symphony orchestra travels to an international location not only to perform, but to learn about the country they’re visiting. Lin said she chose to go to South Africa because “I wanted to go to a place that I didn’t think students would go on their own,” she said. “This is a real opportunity to learn about and experience a culture.”
Nearly every member of the symphony orchestra will be getting on a plane to Cape Town, South Africa on Jan. 21. They have concerts lined up there through Jan. 27, at a local school for the blind, an amphitheater and at the Cape Town International Music Festival. Then the group will travel to Johannesburg for two more concerts.
When they’re not playing music, they will be traveling to some of the poorest parts of South Africa — the rural townships — to participate in service activities. All in all, they will be in South Africa for the last two weeks of interim.
The first few weeks of interim are being spent getting ready for the visit; students have a rigorous rehearsal schedule with Lin and are also taking a companion course that focuses on learning about the country and preparing for the service component of the trip.
Click here to listen to a clip from today’s rehearsal:
Having students volunteer with local residents in need while in South Africa is important, Lin said. “We want the students to be going there not just to tour poverty, but to do some sort of cultural exchange, so they’re not just tourists.”
The undergraduates are excited about their upcoming journey, Lin said, as many haven’t traveled abroad before; for others, this will be their first time on a plane. Above all, she hopes that the students play well and have a good musical experience, she said. “I hope the tour gives them a different perspective on their life, too, and puts their own problems in perspective. I want them to know that while no one is asking them to change the world, there are things we can all do to make a difference.”
While this isn’t her first time studying abroad during interim, Gustavus senior Meghan Peterson, who plays the violin in the symphony orchestra, said she’s looking forward to traveling and performing just the same. “I know our tour will be a great opportunity to improve our skills as musicians while learning about a different culture,” Peterson said. “This month is a good time for students to try new things — I think most students find that it’s an eye-opening experience.”