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Perspectives from abroad: Q&A with Human Development student Gabriele Cabanilla

March 11, 2019

Categories: Blog

Published: March 11, 2019

Twelve members of the Pacific Oaks College community participated in a 10-day, interdisciplinary study abroad trip, “Identity in Context” to Johannesburg and Cape Town in South Africa in December 2018. We spoke with Gabriele Cabanilla, who is currently studying for her master’s in Human Development, to discuss what was most impactful to her and highlight some key takeaways from the trip.



 Cabanilla is set to graduate from the San Jose campus at Pacific Oaks College in spring of 2019. Originally from Vienna, Austria, she has been working as an early childhood educator for more than 30 years.

 What part of the experience was most impactful to you?

When we were in Soweto, Johannesburg, I saw corrugated little metal “matchbox” houses. Most of those houses had no running water or electricity, and there would be six to ten people living in such a small space. I couldn’t believe the living conditions.

How will this experience change how you approach your life or work?

Learning about the history of apartheid before I traveled to South Africa was eye-opening. I am still in disbelief that apartheid took place during my lifetime. Once I was in South Africa and we visited the Constitutional Court, Mandela’s House, Hector Pieterson Square, the Apartheid Museum, and District Six Museum, I experienced at a deeper level how the people in South Africa were discriminated against just because of the color of their skin.

Traveling to South Africa has changed my view on what is happening globally—not just where I live. The opportunities that were given to me throughout this trip helped me get out of my comfort zone. Being a white woman and of European descent helped me realize that I can be an ally for others when it comes to social justice globally. I have the strength, hope, and dream that I can continue to make changes for myself and others.

Why do you think experiences like this are important?

Learning from a book versus experiencing history offers entirely different perspectives on how to look and analyze life. I no longer look at things that I do not have; instead, I am thankful for what I do have, and that is good enough.

The growth I experienced on this trip led to the most significant transformation I have made within myself, ever. Through this self-transformation, I was given a new perspective on life. I have gone to 11 other countries, but I left a piece of me in South Africa.

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Categories: Blog

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