Saying Goodbye a Little Early

Dr. Laurence Kruger
OTS South Africa, Program & Curriculum Director
African Ecology & Conservation in South Africa
Laurence Kruger, Ph.D

This has been a semester like no other. Study abroad is a key part of many undergraduate students these days, and to have their semester cut short, was difficult indeed. Despite the massive disappointment and uncertainty, the students rolled up their sleeves and got the job done. In order to get fieldwork completed and deliverables wrapped up, our truncated workplan was somewhat intense. We did, however, seek to maximize our time exploring the Cederberg to ensure that the crew left having experienced the incredible landscapes and spent time together. After wrapping up our period in the mountains, we got everyone onto their respective flights and started the dash back to the Kruger Park before the full lockdown in South Africa was enacted. It was a challenging to find the balance between maximizing our remaining time in the field and repatriating students before the global lockdown was enacted.

Nazley and Tshepho identifying freshwater critters in the Krom River

Fortunately, the timing worked well, and all got home safely and with minimal challenge. Like all institutions around the world, we needed to transition to an online mode of delivery. No mean feat for an experiential, field-based learning program! Again, the students showed great patience and commitment to working through their last deliverables and capstone projects. The end product of the Capstones was an incredible range of talks.

Despite all the difficulty of working together online, without the benefit of having done fieldwork to test ideas and develop closer collaborative understanding, the students pulled off some amazing research projects. The semester culminated in their presenting their projects during an online conference, with SANParks and other OTS academics in attendance.

Here I am delivering an OTS lecture in the field

Aside from the contribution the students made during the semester, we are all incredibly grateful for the hard work and superb attitude of the student body in wrapping up the fieldwork, going online and delivering great capstone projects. We would also like to thank all of you for your understanding and patience as wrestled with closing the program and repatriating the students.

So please stay in touch… we hope that, when the Covid-19 challenge passes, we will be able to continue running life changing courses for students, but also find a way to support this crew in returning to SA to engage in a summer research internship. All the best, and be safe in these challenging times.

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The Best Experience of My Life that Almost Never Was