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José Garcia Cintora shares his University of Delaware pride in South Africa during his Winter Session trip.
José Garcia Cintora shares his University of Delaware pride in South Africa during his Winter Session trip.

Resident assistant travels to South Africa

Photo courtesy of José Garcia Cintora

Scholarship helps in gaining valuable service knowledge for now and future

When he received the Benjamin A. Gilman scholarship, University of Delaware student José Garcia Cintora’s dream of studying abroad finally came true. Equipped with the scholarship, which awards money to students from underrepresented backgrounds seeking academic or career-oriented studies abroad, Garcia Cintora was able to study in South Africa during Winter Session to complete his experiential learning requirement for his Human Services major.

Garcia Cintora’s Human Development and Family Sciences program is a mixture of both service-learning and classroom learning, and the trip reflected both. The experience will also help him in his role as a resident assistant. The Gilman scholarship program is run through the U.S. State Department.

The trip began in Johannesburg, the largest city in South Africa, and included a visit to Soweto – the township black citizens were forced into by the former apartheid government in the 1930s. Nelson Mandela, a leader in the anti-apartheid movement and later South Africa’s president, lived in Soweto before he was imprisoned in 1962. The Nelson Mandela National Museum, known as Mandela House, is in Soweto.

After Johannesburg, Garcia Cintora and the other students traveled to the capital city of Pretoria and stayed there for two weeks before flying to Cape Town for two weeks. The group also took the opportunity to go on a safari.

In Pretoria, students volunteered at a local orphanage with children who did not speak English. Many of the children don’t have the opportunity to attend school, and just stay at the orphanage.

“Connecting on a human level without language, with a person of another culture in the orphanage taught me what meaningful relationships are built on,” Garcia Cintora said. “We stayed for [only] two weeks, so we really dedicated ourselves to being present in the moment.”

In Cape Town, the group helped out in a local primary school situated in a neighborhood plagued by gang violence. According to Garcia Cintora, Cape Town is where students saw how difficult pursuing education can be for the children in the area.

Back at UD, Garcia Cintora said he plans to use the knowledge he gained abroad in his position as a resident assistant. He hopes to encourage first-year students to be more conscious of different perspectives and cultures – especially in regards to international students.

After fully immersing himself in another culture, Garcia Cintora said he came away from the trip with a “global scholar” state of mind. He said he is trying to plan an event for his floor to discuss study abroad and what can be gained from the experience.

“They [his floor] might be getting a little sick of me,” he joked about his exuberance toward studying abroad.

Garcia Cintora, who hopes to graduate in May, and said he wants to to apply what he learned overseas to his future career in higher education and student affairs. He is applying to graduate school.

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