Dispatches from South Africa

Posted on by Polk Newsroom

Polk State students Melissa Altamirano, Janis Davis Jones, Joshua Moore and Debra White, as well as Business Professor and Golden Key International Honour Society Adviser Herb Nold recently traveled to Cape Town, South Africa, to attend Golden Key’s South African Conference. Golden Key International Honour Society is the world’s largest collegiate honor society. Polk State’s chapter was chartered in 2011, and membership is limited to high academic performers in the College’s bachelor’s programs. News@Polk has been posting regular dispatches from the students and Dr. Nold during their trip.

Here, the students and Nold give us a wrap-up of their experiences. 


South Africa’s Democracy a Work in Progress
— Student Joshua Moore

As our journey comes to a close, I must say that I’m sad to leave such a beautiful country that accepted all of us with open arms.

I’d have to say that the most influential moment during this trip was when Janis and I went on a township tour. The “townships” are communities that are made out of shipping crates and include: houses, pubs, and convenience stores. The people of these communities have no running water, rely mostly on local markets to generate income, and have communal bathrooms. Personally, this has shown me how much we, as Americans, take for granted.

Another eye-opening experience was when I got to actually hear about Cape Town’s history. In the past, the government forcefully removed black citizens from their homes. Afterwards, the government destroyed their homes, and as for those who didn’t leave … I’d rather not say. All of this was done to prevent the black citizens from moving back into the community.

Democracy just passed in 1994. Obviously, this was not that long ago, so you would expect that the country is still working on being democratic. However, I’ve gotten the feeling that many white South African locals still feel superior to the black South African locals. As I talked to all of the black South African locals, they feel as if the mindsets of people are never going to change — especially if the government doesn’t help. Doesn’t this sound familiar? It sounds similar to something that the United States went through. I guess history really does repeat itself.

People, Places in South Africa Inspire Me
— Student Melissa Altamirano

I would like to report that the South African Conference was a fantastic success!

Our session received a full house and we engaged our delegates in an interactive discussion. Our closing gala was a beautiful event, too!  We shared in the celebrations of the South African chapters’ service recognitions.

I have made numerous connections with Golden Key members from all over the world!

As a student, I’d like to share that this study-abroad experience has further developed my interpersonal skills, which I will exercise in my chosen business profession. I learned that interpersonal connections are vital to business. These relationships will provide support in the future.

I’ve also matured by gaining valuable intercultural experience and perspective. Becoming aware of the conditions impacting students around the world has motivated me to challenge myself — and others — to really consider what is at stake with our college careers.

As Golden Key members, we share the passion to succeed, but we must find opportunities to also “lead, inspire, and grow” — the motto of the summit. I feel empowered to continue building on my leadership skills. I am coming back to Polk State College with supercharged energy, aiming to assist my chapter members in conducting community service projects and meeting academic challenges.

I have also had the opportunity to learn about the South African people and history, and communities of Cape Town. Visiting with the local residents as part of the township tour was a humbling, peaceful experience. In the midst of poverty and unemployment there is hope and resiliency. The small children are overjoyed to see visitors, and their smiles are so contagious that you can’t help but smile too and appreciate the transfer of positive energy.

The sites are beautiful here in Cape Town and the weather was beautiful, too.

Polk State’s Presentation a Huge Success
Business Professor Herb Nold

The team conducted their workshop today at the South African Conference. We were also mentioned by name by Brad Rainey, executive director of Golden Key International, in his opening comments today.

Debbie, Janis, Josh, and Melissa donned the T-shirts that we had made especially for this event, and made final preparations. Excitement and anxiety rose as the room filled with around 100 delegates. I could not have been more proud of our Polk State team as they delivered a lecture and conducted a one-hour workshop titled Getting Smarter … Faster… than the Competition: Theory and Practice.

After making a presentation that lasted about 20 minutes, the team broke the audience up into three groups to explore the practical aspects of the conference’s theme — Lead, Inspire, Grow.

The room was packed and the attendees were totally engaged — we even had some difficulty clearing the room so the next session could start because delegates wanted to continue asking questions and learning from our team.

Our group has been interacting with fellow students, making friends, and networking while spreading the Polk State College name. Learning words in the hundreds of languages that the delegates speak has been a fantastic learning experience.

Humbled by Township Tour
— Student Janis Davis Jones

Good morning from South Africa!

Josh and I visited the townships of Langa and Khayelitsha.

Langa is Cape Town’s oldest township, established in 1923. Most of its residents belong to a single tribe called Xhosa. Khayelitsha is South Africa’s second largest township, with nearly half a million people.

In both villages, there is extreme poverty. Seeing firsthand the living conditions of the thousands of people in these two townships was very humbling, but also disturbing at the same time.

I feel that this cultural experience will forever change my life. It makes me appreciate even the simplest conveniences we use in our everyday lives. Every person we met was so friendly and welcoming, and shared their stories with us.