Alexandria Denton of Oxford, a recent UM graduate, spent her spring semester studying in South Africa. She had a lot of surprises but perhaps the biggest surprise of all is that she came to love the country and its people.
“It’s hard to describe such a life-changing experience,” Denton said. “Africa has taught me more about myself than I could have ever imagined. It’s strange how being so far from home has shed so much light on my life.”
A member of UM’s Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College, Denton majored in liberal studies in the College of Liberal Arts, with minors in English, psychology and religious studies. She enrolled at Stellenbosch University in the Western Cape of South Africa. Her courses, which count toward her UM degree, included history of South Africa, public theology and Learning for Sustainable Community Engagement. She lived in on-campus housing with South African and other international students.
Travel on weekends and fall break has broadened her world and brought new adventures, including whale watching in Hermanus and the Cape of Good Hope, and going on a 10-day camping safari throughout Botswana and Zimbabwe.
“I’ve also pushed myself to new boundaries,” she said. “In Botswana, we camped in the Okavango Delta, and we also did a Chobe River game drive. In Zimbabwe, where I saw Victoria Falls, one of the seven natural wonders of the world, I rafted level-5 rapids on the Zambezi River and bungee jumped over the Zambezi gorge.”
The most eye-opening part of her study abroad, Denton says, has been the omnipresence of poverty.
“I have confronted poverty face to face,” she said. “I daily walk past beggars and homeless people asleep on the streets. Africa has given me new words, like ‘ubuntu’ (an age-old African term for humaneness – for caring, sharing and being in harmony with all of creation) and new meanings for words such as racism, poverty and hope.”
Indeed, the “life-changing” experience is helping focus her future.
“Short-term, I want to continue to travel the world, and I’m considering doing development work in Africa or Asia,” she said. “If in Africa, I would like to focus on orphans of the AIDS epidemic, and if in Asia, I want to focus on sex trafficking. Long-term, I would like to study theology and pursue writing.”
At UM, Denton held an Academic Excellence Scholarship. She was a member of Mortar Board and the Senior Class Council. As a freshman, she was chosen for the Chancellor’s Leadership Class.
Affiliation with the Honors College provided her access to its vibrant center of academic excellence, which merges intellectual rigor with public service to help member students from all disciplines become outstanding in their fields.
A graduate of Oxford High School, she is the daughter of Jaby and Jennie Denton.