When senior Alice Woods left Cape Town in May 2015 after studying abroad for a semester, she knew she wanted to return. After studying abroad again in spring 2016, she still couldn’t let go of South Africa, so she stayed for three more months.
Woods, a geography and ecosystem science major originally from St. Louis, Missouri, worked with gender justice non-governmental organizations (NGOs) both times she studied in Cape Town. In February, she was recognized for her work in 2016 by IES Abroad as an honorable mention for Global Citizen of the Year.
The award, given out for the first time this year, honors students from around the world who impacted their communities while studying abroad on one of IES’s more than 125 programs.
Woods dove into her work in South Africa, and her NGO, Community Media Trust, threw a project at her in response to her eagerness: write a 40-week curriculum to educate and empower young South African girls ages 12 to 17 who are at risk for HIV. Each lesson taught a certain skill, such as conflict resolution, breast self-examination or how to open a bank account.
If that wasn’t challenging enough, Woods also had to create a broad curriculum that would account for both language barriers and different literacy levels.
“I went into the composition thinking I had a lot of good lessons to teach them,” Woods said. “But what needed to be taught to me at 12 is different than what these 12 year old girls needed to learn.”
Working on the curriculum and traveling around South Africa to implement it taught Woods how to work outside her comfort zone and think of things differently.
“It’s made me try to step back and look at problems from a different point of view and try to understand where people are coming from,” she said.
When she graduates in May, Woods will be attending graduate school for urban planning and hopes to return to South Africa during her career.
Correction, March 9: This article previously stated that IES stood for the Institute of Education Services, which is a different organization. The correct name is IES Abroad. This article also stated that IES honored three students in 2017. The Global Citizen of the Year award honored seven students: one winner, three finalists and three honorable mentions.