I believe life truly begins at the end of your comfort zone. My study abroad experience
with the TCU Rhino Initiative in South Africa expanded my horizons in ways I could have never imagined. Over the
course of ten days, our group of faculty and students explored rich biodiversity,
engaged in wildlife conservation efforts and formed unbreakable bonds.
The initiative, started in 2014 by Dr. Slattery, raises public awareness about rhino poaching, supports conservation efforts and
sends students like me to South Africa for the Biodiversity and Human Development study abroad course.
A Hands-On Lesson in Conservation
We encountered many of South Africa's magnificent wildlife. We went on a game drive, saw zebras, giraffes, and lions in their natural habitat and learned about their behaviors, adaptations and delicate ecosystems.
We learned how rhino populations are plummeting due to the devastating effects of
poaching driven by the false belief in the magical properties of their horns. Then
we saw this in real-time, watching scientists dehorn a rhino to prevent poaching.
Taking the hands-on learning further, I assisted in medical procedures on wildebeests
and one of my favorite moments of the trip was participating in a giraffe translocation
procedure. This complex process involved sedating giraffes, loading them onto trucks,
and relocating them to new reserves. My role in this vital conservation effort was
humbling and filled me with a profound sense of purpose.
All of these experiences underscored the importance of global cooperation and individual
commitment to conservation, and fueled a desire to raise awareness and help protect
these magnificent animals.
South African Culture: Bridging Differences Through Shared Moments
During the trip, we also visited a local school and played games with enthusiastic children that transcended cultural barriers.
As I left South Africa, I knew that this journey had been life-changing. It not only
deepened my understanding of the world's natural wonders but also underscored the
urgency of conservation efforts. Thanks to TCU and the TCU Rhino Initiative, I had
the privilege of experiencing this adventure, one that I will forever cherish and
share as I continue my journey as a global citizen and conservation advocate.
Jolie is a junior majoring in finance and business information systems from Ho Chi
Minh City, Vietnam.