Hannah Wurgaft '14

  • Major: Africana Studies
  • Minor: Government and Legal Studies
  • Study Abroad Program: CIEE Arts and Sciences, Cape Town

hannah wurgaft class of 2014Why did you choose your study abroad program specifically?
When I arrived at Bowdoin, I decided to become an Africana Studies major, focusing on African history. I was so excited to learn that I could spend a semester studying abroad in Africa and the CIEE program in Cape Town seemed like a great fit because it I would be studying in a large city and a large university, the complete opposite of Bowdoin and Brunswick. I was looking for a really different experience that related to my academic studies. 

How did you connect your off-campus study with your Bowdoin academics and extracurriculars?
Before I studied abroad in South Africa, I took Professor Gordon’s course on South African history. This course provided me a historical lens in confronting the present racial tensions and really gave me a leg-up once I arrived in Cape Town to adjust to the different terminology around race that locals use and just have a more nuanced understanding of South African society. In addition, I’ve always been in both education and legal systems and, so, I volunteered in a township and a group of kids inspired me to learn more about the juvenile justice system. When I returned to Bowdoin, I applied for a summer fellowship to work at Cumberland Legal Aid at the University of Southern Maine law school. I learned more about juvenile justice and how it impacts the immigrant community, many of whom are from African countries, in southern Maine. All of this has led to an honors project on disproportionate minority contact within the juvenile justice system and how minorities and immigrants are impacted, often negatively, by federal mandates to track racial inequalities. 

What was the best learning moment outside of the classroom?
While working in the township one day, I was teaching a counting lesson. There were such few resources in the classroom and the small children were beginning to work on sums that were larger than 10. So, I told a little boy to use my hands so that he could do addition sums up to 20. As the lesson continued, this little boy moved along to other kids in the room and I could hear him say, “use my hands”, to help his classmates count to 20. I don’t think I’ll ever forget that.