Afrika Owes ’16 has been named the recipient of a prestigious 2016-17 Fulbright Award to South Africa, where she will teach English.
“I am beyond elated I was accepted,” says the sociology major who graduated cum laude in May. “I owe a lot to my mentor, Centennial Center for Leadership Program Manager and Interim Chief Diversity Officer Solomé Rose and my Intercultural Affairs family. They convinced me to apply and stood by my side through the long process.”
Known for its highly competitive field of applicants, the Fulbright Program is the U.S. government’s flagship international educational exchange program. Owes is one of seven HWS students and recent graduates to earn a 2016-17 Fulbright U.S. Student Award, including Charles S. DeBenedetto ’16 (Taiwan), Ryan Kertanis ’16 (Mongolia), Olivia Woodruff ’16 (Senegal), Virginia DeWees ’16 (Malaysia), Emma McDowell ’15 (Bangkok) and Sophia Skaff ’15 (Brazil).
In addition to teaching English as a second language, Owes will foster cross-cultural exchange by teaching a course on American culture. She plans to lead a class regarding poetry and hip-hop, focusing on African American history and culture “to show the link between African culture and African American history,” she explains.
“There are so many misconceptions about South Africans and Black Americans and I am nervous, yet excited to give voice to both cultures,” says Owes. “Through teaching, we learn. And most of all, I am excited to learn.”
She also intends to work with children and adolescents who have been diagnosed with HIV/AIDS, helping them find “creative outlets” to express themselves.
“I want to push their understanding of English and self-expression as a means of therapy and construction of identity,” Owes says.
Well prepared to take on the demands of her Fulbright responsibilities, Owes served as a volunteer English teacher to local students while studying abroad in HWS’ South Africa program during her junior year. She also served as a writing colleague for the Colleges’ Higher Education Opportunity Program.
“Working with the children in South Africa showed me the importance of creativity and cross-cultural communication when helping students learn and begin to develop themselves as individuals,” she says. “HEOP helped me understand the power of authoring our own stories and why it is necessary to develop our grammar and English skills, so we are constantly in control and have power over our stories and our writing.”
On campus, Owes was president of Sankofa, the HWS Black Student Union, and played an integral part in reshaping the club and prioritizing community engagement. She served as one of three senior chairs for the Stewardson Society, and was a member of Hai Timiai and the Laurel Society. She served as a Resident Assistant, IT student worker, and program assistant for the Center for Global Education, and was the 2015 recipient of the Lillian E. Collins Scholarship.