Geneva Heffernan

International Experience Country:
South Africa
Cohort Year:
Home Institution:

Temple University

Heinz Programming Area:
Economic Opportunity
Study Abroad Country: Cohort Year:  Home Institution:  Programming Area: 
International Experience Summary:

With the help of the Vira I. Heinz Endowment, Geneva travelled to South Africa for five weeks through a journalism program in Temple University’s Klein College of Media and Communication. The first half of the program was spent in the Gauteng province around the city of Johannesburg and the second was spent in the Western Cape in and around Cape Town. Studying multimedia journalism, Geneva was immersed in a hands-on program that included excursions every day to various places where the students conducted interviews. From these interactions students developed stories that they would like to create their journalistic pieces about. Geneva was inspired by a basketball coach in the Alex township of Johannesburg, who created a basketball program that integrates tutoring and basketball encouraging the players to seek scholarships to attend college, which they call “university.” Geneva interviewed the coach and players at a practice and created a five-minute video about the program. On the theme of exploring the power of sports in communities, Geneva created her second video project about a swim program called Atlantis Swim Club in a historically Indian city, Lenasia, that was one of the only swim clubs that allowed people of all races to participate during the Apartheid era. Today, the swim club is training high caliber swimmers who often compete at the national level and aspire to make it to the Olympics. The head coach of the Atlantis Swim Club, Julie Adam, is an accomplished swimmer herself, and dedicates her life to the instruction of children and adults in the pool. Geneva was inspired by the work of the Julie as she is an entrepreneur who started her own swim school doing something she is passionate about.

Every day was a new learning adventure as Geneva talked with people who had been relocated away from their homes during Apartheid, visited retired mines learning of their brutal history, explored the Cradle of Humankind where some of the earliest human remains were discovered, travelled to informal settlements, learned how to cook a traditional Indian meal, sang songs in Zulu, practiced the clicks of the Xhosa language, learned drum rhythms, solemnly navigated the Apartheid Museum, discussed community violence and unemployment at the Gangster Museum and over dinner in Khadyesha, conversed with people who had been “temporarily relocated” for the World Cup in 2010 and were never returned to their homes, conversed with journalism students at the prestigious WITS University in Johannesburg, discussed U.S. politics with street vendors and taxi drivers, and much more. Geneva made the most of the journalism aspect of the program by using her role as a reason to strike up conversation with strangers and grow in confidence as she learned about the intricacies of South Africa beyond its Apartheid history. 

Community Engagement Experience Summary:

CEE Title: Crossing Borderlines

Crossing Borderlines is an activity-based event to lead participants toward self-reflecting on their own privileges. Because privilege is often unseen and unnoticed by those with it, it is important to pause to think about the privileges that you were born with and have acquired through unintentional means. The program begins with an “Identity Pie” handout where participants draw a pie chart to illustrate the identities most salient to them in that moment. The next activity asked participants to move to the posted signs around the room with identity-descriptors such as “Race,” “Gender Identity,” “Ethnicity,” “Sexual Orientation,” “Able-Bodiedness,” “Nationality,” “Gender Presentation,” “Class,” etc., to the factor that feels most salient to them in regards to various statements such as, “My identity that I would to know more about is_____” or “My identity I am least aware of is_______.” Following a discussion, the next activity is the “Comfort Zone” activity where participants moved to red, yellow, and green zones dependent on how comfortable they would be in the situations read aloud. The visual representation of comfort zones gives participants the opportunity to see how others feel differently while still reflecting on their own responses. Ending the event with pizza and the last activity, “Intersectionallergy,” participants were put in groups and challenged to come up with a meal everyone in the group could eat after being assigned different allergies. The allergies then became assignments of phobias and handicaps where the groups were challenged to come up with a day’s worth of activities that accommodated all the needs of their group. The discussion and variety of activities gave participants diverse ways of understanding and “seeing” privilege.