Bloomfield student in South Africa for conference

By Trey Williams
and Jocelyn Moody
Special to The Independent Press


Bloomfield College student Daisha Robinson in Makhanda, South Africa, where she attended an educational conference and put together documentary style podcasts.

Bloomfield is 8,180 miles from Makhanda, South Africa.

Daisha Robinson traveled all those miles recently as part of her studies as a media communications student at Bloomfield College of Montclair State University.

Robinson set out in January for the town that is in the Eastern Cape Province of the country and home to about 140,000 people.

Her mission was to collaborate with the nonprofit organization Inkululeko, which provides educational opportunities to underserved communities, helping motivated South African township youth finish high school and go on to university studies.

Bloomfield College has a one student per year travel and learning opportunity to South Africa financed through faculty development funds and the Humanities Division.
Robinson’s work there was part of a plan to further enhance the college’s international engagement portfolio in the region. Specifically, Robinson was to create documentary-style podcasts that would include her attendance at the Scaling the Summit education conference that took place at Rhodes University, Makhanda, South Africa, on Jan. 27-28. The conference was for local education leaders looking to improve what they do.

Robinson edited two podcasts covering a Zoom discussion between South African high school-age students and students of ITC High School in Syracuse, N.Y.

In the discussion, the learners spoke with their counterparts about issues impacting both communities such as mental health, adapting to COVID, their school environment and the curriculum they each follow. Robinson was also responsible for posting the podcasts to the Inkululeko webpage.

“Through this hands-on learning experience, Daisha was exposed to people from another part of the world. She was curious and engaged, and asked tons of questions as she soaked it all in. I’m so incredibly proud of her and the phenomenal work she did in Makhanda,” said Bloomfield College Professor Jason Torreano, who was one of the founders of Inkululeko and traveled with her to South Africa.

Originating from Jersey City, Robinson’s journey not only gave way to her first time flying but also served as a catalyst for self-discovery and awareness.

“It was difficult adjusting to the weather and the time difference,” she said. “Sometimes, I would call my parents or friends during the day here, but in New Jersey, it would be something like one or two in the morning.”

Amid it all, Robinson echoed a sentiment of personal growth.

“Yes, it was difficult and different, but it’s worth it for all the things I took away from the experience.”

When asked about the experience, Robinson spoke passionately about her newfound perspective.

“It was transformative,” said Robinson. “I learned how to live in the moment, and my eyes were opened to a different perspective,” she said. “People often take for granted how good they may have it compared to elsewhere in the world.”

Robinson painted a vivid picture of the challenges faced by the communities she encountered. “There are certain periods in the day where the power just goes out for hours (locally referred to as loadshedding), and I couldn’t imagine having to deal with that before this trip.”

After witnessing the significant challenges the people of South Africa are facing, Robinson made up her mind to make changes in her own lifestyle in New Jersey.

“Being here made me realize that I do not need certain things that I spend my money on,” said Robinson. “I plan to focus on the things that actually deserve to be focused on.”

Robinson also feels as though she took for granted all of the extracurriculars at Bloomfield College, after seeing that students in South Africa do not have those opportunities.

“Now I am definitely going to take advantage of the programs that are on campus. I realized that many students have no access to the things that I do.”

When asked where she may wish to travel next, the first-generation college student who hails from Jersey City, says she plans to apply to the Peace Corps after graduation in the hope of volunteering with the organization abroad for 12 months before moving onto graduate school somewhere in the United States.

Bloomfield College student Daisha Robinson in Makhanda, South Africa.