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All eyes on South Africa

June 28, 2010
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Seminar lands U-M students at historic World Cup

Sixteen years after the end of apartheid, the selection of South Africa to host the 2010 FIFA World Cup was seen as a major milestone for the African nation. As host, South Africa could influence the global dialogue on development theory, interracial relations, and nation building. But the work is far from done. The country still grapples with poverty and crime, and the impact of the World Cup on South African institutions and citizens remains to be seen.

A group of students from the University of Michigan School of Kinesiology‘s sport management program have a chance to experience some of that impact firsthand during a six-week study abroad program that blends the world’s biggest sports tournament – the World Cup – with an opportunity to study Zulu and work with local communities on health education outreach focused on HIV/AIDS prevention.

U-M undergraduates Tori Raymond, Josh Leskar, Mike Topol and Lexie Silverman are part of a new program called “South Africa: Globalization, Sports, and Development,” presented by SIT Study Abroad from June 4-July 16. Raymond, a junior from Grand Rapids, has captured the experience in her blog, “KeNako [It’s time.]

U-M kinesiology students among World Cup fans in Durban, South Africa.

U-M kinesiology students Tori Raymond (center, wearing flag) and Josh Leskar (hands cupped to mouth) among World Cup fans in Durban, South Africa

“I am excited to launch SIT Study Abroad‘s new program at such an important time in the history of sports,” said Imraan Buccus, the program’s academic director. “Participants will experience the first World Cup in Africa while learning about the intertwined relationship between globalization, mega-sports and development.”

Based in the South African city of Durban, the program includes meetings with municipal officials, community activists, and faculty from the University of KwaZulu Natal as part of a full-credit seminar. Students also have a chance to apply what they’ve learned through field activities, including sports development initiatives and work with a youth organization that uses soccer to teach HIV/AIDS prevention. During their stay, students live with Zulu-speaking families in Cato Manor and rural eMacambini.

SIT Study Abroad is a program of World Learning, and in this case one that offered Raymond, Leskar, Topol and Silverman an experience that complements their sport management study at Michigan.

“International experiences in sport management are critical because more than ever sport is produced, broadcast and consumed on a global scale,” said Tom George, head of U-M’s sport management program. “Many sport governing bodies and organizations have ‘exported’ their products to countries all over the world, and have greatly expanded their markets and consumer base. Moreover, sport has and continues to contribute to the economic growth and development of many countries – such as the World Cup in South Africa and the 2016 Olympics in Brazil. Our students must understand the roles, values and relevance of sport in a variety of countries and cultures, not just in our own.”

Kinesiology students at Michigan have increasingly taken advantage of opportunities to study abroad since the school’s Center for Global Opportunities was established in 2006. Twenty three percent of the Kinesiology class of 2010 have gained international experience during their studies at U-M, says international program coordinator Sandra Wiley. SIT Study Abroad has offered programs for undergraduate college students for more than 50 years, and currently offers more than 80 programs worldwide. To date, more than 25,000 students have benefited from SIT Study Abroad’s field-based programs.

Photo by Hussein Malla, courtesy of the Associated Press

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