The Colgate Scene
September 2003

A summer in Cape Town

[Photos Megan Morris]

For Courtney Hostetler '04, the summer of 2003 offered an opportunity to extend her South African experience, while for Jareau Hall '06 it offered the prospect of adventure.

Hostetler's opportunity and Hall's adventure came in the form of internships at South Africa's University of Cape Town during June and July. Working with staff from ProfNet, an internet-based resource for journalists, and the University of Cape Town's public relations unit, the two students assisted in registering and profiling African public relations professionals and experts. Colgate jointly funded the internships with ProfNet as an extension of its study-abroad programs.

"As Colgate's rich array of college-sponsored study-abroad programs demonstrates, we value international experience in this global age," President Rebecca Chopp said when the internships were announced. "ProfNet has expanded those opportunities by offering these students a rare internship in South Africa. As longtime members of ProfNet, we at Colgate know the importance of this service to both colleges and the media. It is gratifying to see the service expand, and to have our students involved in that expansion."

Hostetler and Hall were charged with approaching universities throughout Africa with an offer to list their academic experts in the ProfNet database. The database links reporters with experts at academic institutions, corporations, government and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in North America, Canada and Europe, explained Karen Dyke, who manages ProfNet service in Africa.

"Our African development strategy has been greatly enhanced by Courtney and Jareau's involvement, which increased the number of African experts available to reporters from 137 to more than 320," Dyke said. "Their brief included contacting the information officers of the universities and explaining ProfNet to them, getting buy-in from the universities through the information officers' participation, establishing who the experts from that institution would be, contacting the experts to explain what ProfNet is, getting buy-in from the experts and then profiling the experts into the database."

Hostetler and Hall's duties were made more difficult by limited bandwidth and unreliable telecommunications throughout the rest of the continent, Dyke added.

"Both showed that they can think on their feet, which from a businessperson's perspective is a great skill and meant that their productivity was not impaired in any meaningful way when they faced these difficulties," said Dyke. "I believe that both of them are courageous and adventurous people who came to work in a country that is probably not at the top of most Americans' lists for overseas travel."

Courtney Hostetler '04 (left) and Jareau Hall '06 (right) get to know their host institution in South Africa, the University of Cape Town, with a little help from Thenjiwe Kona, public relations officer in the university's department of communication and development. The two Colgate students were interns in the UCT media relations unit for ProfNet's growing African operation. The internship was jointly funded by Colgate as an extension of its study-abroad programs.

Cape Town's layers
Hostetler was already at the University of Cape Town for her semester abroad when she learned of the internship from Anne Pitcher, an associate professor of political science at Colgate.

"I liked the idea of being able to work on a database that could network journalists and experts from all over the world," said Hostetler, who is from Portsmouth, R.I. "I saw a lot of potential in the project to help create a better informed media and public. Equally important to me was the chance to stay in South Africa. Although taking on the internship made travel plans difficult, the Western Cape is a large area with a lot happening. I jumped at the opportunity to spend an extra month and a half in South Africa."

Hall also learned of the internship from Pitcher because he was enrolled in her extended study class on South Africa.

"I saw the internship as something that would increase my knowledge of the world and expose to me to another aspect of life," said Hall, a native of Syracuse, N.Y. "I wanted to see how different people's views are in other parts of the world. It was also very important that I see a part of Africa and gain as much knowledge of the people and their mentality."

Hostetler lived in an off-campus residence for international students in Rondebosch, the suburb where the UCT campus is located, and Hall stayed in Athlone, a former "Coloured," or mixed-race, township that has been annexed into Cape Town. Both said they were struck by the extreme poverty among black South Africans that is one of apartheid's most vexing legacies.

"The highway out of the Cape Town airport cuts through Khaye-litsha, a township with a population of more than one million people. I remember seeing the shacks of the township on my left and a middle-class suburban neighborhood on my right," said Hostetler. "That was my first visual impression of Cape Town. Since then, I spent time in both Khayelitsha and some of Cape Town's suburbs. I've gotten to know some of the attitudes and atmospheres that surround the many social and cultural layers of Cape Town.

"My first thought was that this was going to be an intense experience that I certainly wasn't able to put into words on that first drive down the highway," she added. "If my thinking has evolved, it is that I better understand that nothing in Cape Town can be taken on first impressions, or even on tenth or eleventh impressions. This is a place with a deep history and a layered history, and every image of the city and its parts comes with more stories than someone driving down the highway could possibly imagine."

"My first impression of South Africa was that it was very similar to America, but it just took its racial policies a lot farther than we did," said Hall. "I found out later that South Africa is much like America with respect to the rest of Africa because it is considered the land of opportunity. Here you find people from all over Africa trying to make a living. Even though the situation is bad here, it's worse in other parts of the continent."

Hostetler said she was also drawn to the internship because she's interested in becoming a journalist.

"I think that mainstream journalism, perhaps everywhere but particularly in the United States, is far too narrow in its scope of what to report, and how to report it. I feel that the best way I could make an impact on people and on politics is to find and present stories and views that people wouldn't otherwise have heard about; I have enough faith in people to believe that once they begin to pay more attention to the complexities of the world, we will become a society more critical of, involved in and interested in, politics and current events," she said. "I definitely hope to return. I am interested in spending more time studying in the Centre for African Studies at UCT; it is a challenging environment of study, and I covered topics I have not been able to learn about elsewhere. I also love South Africa. There are a lot of issues and circumstances that the government and society are struggling with right now, but I like the level of involvement people have with their country."

Although Hall isn't interested in a career in journalism or media relations, he also hopes to return someday.

"I hope to return to South Africa and I would like to see more of the continent. I want to learn more about black African culture and to see how my people are living and what I can do in the future to make that better."

Although a return to South Africa is uncertain for both students, there is little doubt that Hostetler and Hall performed with distinction this past summer, said Dyke.

"I believe that Courtney and Jareau have been excellent ambassadors for Colgate University. I am based in Johannesburg and met Jareau briefly while he was here. Being a thousand miles away, their training was carried out telephonically and via e-mail," said Dyke. "The students have not been able to just pop next door to ask me a question. They either had to come up with a solution or wait for me to get back to them. Courtney and Jareau had to motivate themselves and have proven they have a strong work ethic in delivering very positive results for ProfNet's African development."

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