Student Stories

Student Stories

Living with the Zulu | Grassroots Activism

Living with the Zulu
Four Yale Students Experience the Zulu GPA

This past summer, four Yale students participated in the Fulbright-Hays Advanced Intensive Zulu Group Project Abroad in South Africa. The program, based at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in Pietermaritzburg, gave students seven weeks of intensive Zulu instruction: five weeks in the classroom, and two one-week home-stays, placing each student with a local Zulu family.

The four students – Claire Halpert (Yale College �07), Andrew Joia (Yale College �07), Jenny Kline (African Studies MA �07), and Abigail Koch (African Studies MA �06) – returned August 9 after a trip that, for Andrew Joia, “expanded my whole world and taught me more than I could have ever expected.” Some of Joia�s fondest memories recall “a local shabeen located up the street from my home in Imbali. This was a small hang out for the local men, and a few of the guys in the program and I would go there at night with a few of their home-stay �brothers� to relax…To be at a local hang out, shooting pool, being accepted into this great little social group – just having fun and practicing my Zulu skills – was probably one of the best times in my whole life.”

Abigail Koch appreciated attending three Zulu celebrations in honor of a young woman�s twenty-first birthday. The celebration, called Umemulo, “is a gift parents give their daughters in recognition of their successful passage into maturity,” Koch said.

“The ceremony occurs over two days and begins with a period of seclusion followed by a journey to a river, where [the girl] symbolically washes away her childhood. On the second day the family presents its daughter to the community, and friends and family offer her gifts of clothing and money. Interestingly, the money is attached to the young woman�s head and heavy blankets are draped over her shoulders. She also wears the cull and bladder of the cow which is slaughtered by the family. The woman performs ukusina (Zulu dance) for the crowd and dancing, singing, and feasting follows. Ujeqe (boiled bread) and inyama yangaphakathi (tripe) were served and are considered very special foods and, of course, there was plenty of utshwala (Zulu sorghum beer).” More than any of her other experiences, Jenny Kline valued her time with Lindiwe Chamane, her home-stay “sister” in Maqongqo, a small village in eastern South Africa. Jenny grew close to Lindiwe, who “is studying accounting at a technikon but is planning to apply for her B.A. so she can ultimately teach,” Kline said. “When I asked her about the high unemployment rates that exist in South Africa and about which many people express frustration, she told me that her goal was to let students know that there was hope, and that they needed to be educated in order to get good jobs, and that she wanted to help make that happen.”

Now in the throes of fall semester coursework, the program participants are realizing their linguistic investments, some with a longing for distant lands. Joia waxed poetic about his unforgettable experience, the “beautiful Imbali landscape behind me, glistening like a mirror of the starry night sky, living with the Zulu.”

The summer program was sponsored by the Association of African Studies Programs/African Language Teachers� Association, with the support of the U.S. Department of Education Fulbright-Hays Group Project Abroad Program.


Grassroots Activism in Mombasa, Kenya

In 2008, MA candidate Carol Gallo befriended Hassan in Mombasa while taking the Intermediate Swahili course. They found they had a mutual interest in human rights and development, and Hassan introduced her to friends at nearby Mombasa-based Muslims for Human Rights. He also invited her to his neighborhood just outside the city to see the community development projects of the organization chaired by Hassan, called Mbuyuni (Swahili for �in the baobab tree�). Carol helped Hassan set up an email account and printed photos that the organization could use for publicity. While Carol taught Hassan how to navigate the web in Mombasa�s internet caf�s, Hassan called himself Carol�s �mwalimu wa barabara,� or teacher of the street, showing her the everyday Mombasa she never would have seen on her own and patiently explaining Swahili expressions without switching to English unless absolutely necessary. They remain friends and continue to write to each other.