Umbono Journey to South Africa: Student Pre-Trip Reflections

We invite you to follow the experiences of the junior class during their learning journey to South Africa, June 14-July 2.
For photos, video and student perspectives, see the trip blog:

The following reflections were written in the weeks leading up to their departure. 

Gaining Perspective 

In just a few days, we will be leaving for South Africa. It hasn’t completely hit me yet. There have been small moments, for example, when people ask me about my summer plans, or when our trip t-shirts arrived; but it still hasn’t fully hit me. We are going to South Africa!

Our class chose to name our trip Umbono, a Zulu word meaning perspective. We feel like it expresses our goal for our journey. Collectively, we want to gain a greater sense of the world around us, by immersing ourselves in a different culture. Personally, I want to gain a deeper understanding of a post-apartheid South Africa, a country in repair.  I am excited to meet Thulani Mabaso, a man who lived through the apartheid era and fought against that oppressive system. I want to learn how he is able to be so forgiving; so forgiving that he is able to work closely with a prison guard who worked on Robben Island while Thulani Mabaso was imprisoned there.

My goal for this journey is to take every opportunity that comes to me and come out feeling that I got the most that I possibly could out of the experience. It is easy to plan for the upcoming trip, what I am packing, what I am wearing, who we are meeting, but I don’t think I will understand the magnitude of how lucky I am to be going on a journey like this until I am in the air, on the way to South Africa. – Tabitha Hardin-Zollo, 11th grade

Trusting in the Process

Through the hustle and bustle of junior year, I haven’t quite thought about going to South Africa. Yet, as I sit and write this, it’s starting to hit me. My classmates and I will be embarking on this unique and special learning journey, halfway across the world in just a few days! And I still have so much to do before we depart. One thing I have definitely already learned in preparation is to “trust the process,” as one of our teachers, Ward “SN” Mailliard, told us on the first day of Values class. This has been a challenging class for me throughout the year, as I am a person who likes to know exactly what is to come and prepare accordingly. Throughout the school year, however, I have learned a lot and come to realize that I want to be more open and not get caught up in my expectations, as they will only hinder my experiences.

Despite my apprehensions about the trip “unknowns,” I am excited to visit South Africa and become immersed in its history and culture. It will be interesting to visit a country that is a relatively new democracy and has such a violent and tragic history. This trip will help me to gain more perspective and grow as a person, as it will push me out of my comfort zone. I am truly grateful for this opportunity and I cannot wait to meet new people and share stories with them.  – AnMei Dasbach-Prisk, 11th grade


Contact: Leigh Ann Clifton, director of marketing & communications,

Nestled among the redwoods on 355 acres, Mount Madonna School (MMS) is a community of learners dedicated to creative, intellectual, and ethical growth. MMS supports its students in becoming caring, self-aware, discerning and articulate individuals; and believe a fulfilling life includes personal accomplishments, meaningful relationships and service to society. The CAIS and WASC accredited program emphasizes academic excellence, creative self-expression and positive character development. Located on Summit Road between Gilroy and Watsonville. Founded in 1979.


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