Auburn Family

Encouraging Students Halfway Around the World

Dr. Jane Teel began the year 2014 with a plan for her summer that included all she knew and was accustomed to: Auburn, teaching, home… and Auburn. It was through a phone call from a friend that she learned about a study abroad program called Global Lead.

This program would allow her to travel to South Africa and teach leadership classes at Oglethorpe University in Cape Town.

Nearly five months, later Teel was on a 22-hour flight to Cape Town, South Africa with 106 students from all over the southeast that would soon become her friends.

“I met most of the students in Washington, D.C.,” Teel said. “It was funny because I didn’t know them and they didn’t know me, but we quickly became friends because we all had a common goal: getting to Cape Town.”

Teel said Cape Town was unlike any of the townships that surrounded it. It was modern, sophisticated and beautiful — the surrounding mountains and water were picturesque.

While on campus, Dr. Teel taught the students leadership skills and history of the area. The trip was a combination of developing and fine-tuning leadership skills, community service projects and South African adventures.

“The entire trip broadened my horizons,” she said.    “You wouldn’t think that I need my eyes opened to the world because I have seen so much of it, but I learned so much about people. I have a new perspective.”

The students took turns spending a week in classes and doing service projects, and going on safaris, bungee jumping, swimming with sharks and elephant riding. Because she was an instructor, Teel stayed and completed two week’s worth of classes and service projects in Sir Lowry’s Pass, the neighboring township. Each afternoon after a morning of lectures, Dr. Teel traveled with her students to conduct after school programs in nearby elementary schools. There they made crafts, sang songs and played games.

She did have several adventures of her own, she said. Teel rode an elephant and an ostrich, walked with lions, went on a safari, visited Stella and Bosch University, and visited Robin’s Island and the Cape of Good Hope.

Although Teel said she loved the beautiful scenery and the once-in-a-lifetime opportunities she was given, her favorite part of the trip was not something she could physically bring home.

“The most wonderful part of the trip was the people I shared it with,” Teel said. “I loved spending time with the students and Global Lead staff, but I also loved the South African people that I met. They reminded me how wonderful and unique we are as individuals. These people have very few material goods, yet they are unbelievably happy with what they do have.”

Teel said she learned that life is “not about the stuff.” In her experience in South Africa she learned what it means to be content with what you have and share it, even if there is very little to share.

Dr. Teel spends many hours with students on Auburn’s campus teaching and mentoring. She said she enjoyed getting to know students from across the southeast even though she wasn’t in her usual instruction area.

“At the end of the day, my goal with the students and people in South Africa was similar to my goal here at Auburn. I hoped to establish a relationship with the students that would allow me to provide guidance and encouragement, no matter what walk of life they came from.”


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