International Studies & Programs

Program will forever stay in Corbin’s memory

Breathing in the fresh, unpolluted air rivaled the same feeling when you take a deep breath in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

Back to News

Published: Wednesday, 06 Dec 2023 Author: Corbin Harnden

Corbin standing in sand near a river's edgeWords cannot begin to describe the time I spent within the Makalali Private Game Reserve for this study abroad internship experience. While the plane ride to the continent of Africa from the United States was the lowlight of this program, it was all worth it as soon as I stepped foot into the South African bush. Breathing in the fresh, unpolluted air rivaled the same feeling when you take a deep breath in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Being hundreds of miles away from the nearest “big” city really set the tone on how isolated we really were; grocery trips were once a week since it will take a full day just to get to the nearest supermarket, the fastest way to a good hospital is to be airlifted, and the animals that surround you at all times don’t exactly treat you like they would here, they see you as actually a part of the food chain, so it’s best to stick with a large group.

I was extremely skeptical first about the people I would be staying with for over two weeks, along with those who would be hosting us when we arrived in South Africa, though this ‘fear’ vanished quickly. Everyone I met on the program treated me like family, it truly felt like I was at home the entire time spent abroad. Now knowing that most, if not all, the people within my field of work will somewhat resemble this program makes me beyond excited to break into it once graduated.

Group of students posing for photo at sunset on the reserveNearly all of the things done on this program was a first for me. Going on game drives to see/take data on the animals I have always heard about on the internet or TV was a true eye-opening experience for me. During one of our foot drives my group encountered a lone water buffalo not even 10 meters away, looking straight at me. Listening to the various lectures about dangerous animals on the reserve given by the rangers at Siyafunda (the place we stayed) and then essentially being in one of the predicaments they described was a massively humbling experience. Nothing happened with the buffalo and us, as it was just checking us out then went on its business; though if something had compelled the buffalo to see us as a threat, this would be a different story.

Close up photo of GiraffeOverall, I think this study abroad program will forever stay in my memories as one of the best things to ever happen to me. Being fully engulfed within the natural world surrounded by fantastic people who share the same interests as me is something I hope everyone who attends this program will be able to experience as well.

Name: Corbin Harnden
Status: Junior
Majors: Fisheries and Wildlife and Conservation Biology
Hometown: Livonia, Michigan
Program: African Wildlife Conservation Internship in South Africa