Carina Stopenski

Bio Summary
Cohort Year: 
Home Institution: 
Chatham University
Heinz Programming Area: 
Arts & Culture
Study Abroad Country: 
South Africa
International Experience

Carina spent five weeks abroad in Stellenbosch, South Africa, where she focused on local historical preservation of oppressed South African populations. While attending Stellenbosch University, she took courses regarding South Africa specifically, including the country's political history, issues of inequality and unemployment, and the treatment and stigma of HIV and AIDS among South Africa's most at-risk populations. This niche perspective on South Africa helped Carina to gain a strong understanding of the community of Stellenbosch, as well as the surrounding townships of Kayamandi and Mbekweni. One of the most significant moments of Carina's trip was an excursion to Robben Island, where she toured the prison, viewed Nelson Mandela's cell, and spoke with a former prisoner-turned tour guide about his experiences on the island. She also attended a lecture at BePart Yolontu, Mbekweni's primary HIV-prevention clinic, and visited the District 6 Museum in the heart of Cape Town, which displayed the atrocities committed against people of color during the apartheid era and commemorated their strength and protest during the displacement period. Carina's favorite experience, however, was attending Poetry for Peace at the Gallery University Stellenbosch, an event organized by local youth organizations and Cape Town's premier poetry groups, Cypher and inZync. Here, she heard about the struggles of oppression firsthand from adolescent South Africans, who performed slam poetry in English, Afrikaans, and Xhosa. This not only implemented the technique of oral history, a staple of South African culture, but advocated for peace, artistic expression, and community solidarity. By engaging in these cultural and historical experiences as well as mingling with and befriending Stellenbosch locals, Carina gained new insight on how South Africans preserve their heritage as well as teach it to the coming generations, tourists, and those with a desire to learn. From seeing museums to playing with local children in community centers, Carina broadened her social, cultural, and educational horizons and learned what it meant to preserve a society that once struggled, but is once again thriving thanks to a persistent local community.  

Community Engagement Experience

© Vira I. Heinz Program for Women in Global Leadership, All Rights Reserved.