BRIDGEWATER, Va. – The new May term at Bridgewater College paid dividends for Eagles' basketball player Helen Counts. Counts, a political science major, travelled to South Africa during May term for a class titled the "Politics of Social Change."
Fulfilling an academic requirement along with taking a fun journey to a new country had Counts hooked on making the trip.
"The trip fit in to my political science major, so that was appealing," said Counts. "But mainly it just the opportunity to travel and learn about another culture and country. If I wouldn't have gone, who knows, maybe I would never have had the chance to visit South Africa in the future. The May term gave me the opportunity to take a trip like this. In my first two years at Bridgewater, I couldn't travel during interterm due to basketball season."
The 15 days in South Africa were packed with various activities, including numerous tours that dealt with the life of Nelson Mandela and the country's past policy of apartheid.
"I really didn't know a lot about South Africa before this trip. I didn't know a great deal about Mandela and apartheid," said Counts. "That part of their history is so recent. It was fascinating being in the country and learning about their political struggles and how the country has changed and is still changing."
There was also plenty of time to sight-see and enjoy South Africa. "The country is absolutely beautiful," said Counts. "I loved seeing the elephants and the great white sharks. I've always liked sharks for some reason, so for me, that was a lot of fun.
"We also went to an orphanage and spent some time with the kids there and that was one of the highlights of the trip for me," she continued.
Counts was a little surprised by the welcoming atmosphere provided by the people of South Africa. "Due to all the tension recently in our country and around the world, I wasn't sure how we might be treated by the South African people," said Counts. "I've never met nicer people in my life. It was different than what I expected. Everyone we met was very welcoming and very nice to us. The people were amazing. I loved it there."
Counts, who is entering her junior year at Bridgewater, has made the most of her time at the College and expects to graduate in three years.
"I'm looking forward to graduating," Counts said. "I'm planning to go to law school, so I thought I may as well get this part of my education completed and move on to the next step."