Author, Jamie Wansey (Owner / Founder of Student Horizons)
On my desk in my garage (our makeshift Student Horizons ‘Head Office’) sits this photograph. It puts a smile on my face.
The Covid-19 crisis and the associated catastrophic impact on Student Horizons (and the rest of the travel and tourism industry) and on our people has shaken my resolve at times over the last 6 months. It has shaken my steadfastness on the odd occasion to keep going.
This photo motivates me to persevere and to persist and to keep going. It kicks me into action. It boots out any self-pity creeping in. I remember how incredibly fortunate I am. It reminds me of the significant value one gains through travel. It affirms to me how important Student Horizons work is, that we have real purpose and we are making a difference in society. Fundamentally, I feel a sense of enormous gratitude to be serving in a field that has a social impact in the world.
I landed in South Africa in 1996. I was eighteen. On reflection, it was a very special time in the history of the country with a great sense of hope in the air. The apartheid had only recently ended, and Nelson Mandela was of course President, the country’s first black head of state.
I would work at two ‘placements’ during my time in South Africa. I would coach sport at a large independent school (St Johns College) in central Johannesburg and I would teach English at a rural African farm school near Tzaneen in the province of Northern Transvaal, subsequently renamed Limpopo. It goes without saying I absolutely loved both my placements, each one providing me with a raft of different “experiences for life”.
The placements and the experiences I would have at each school could not have been more different from one another. They were the antithesis. The former exemplified white privilege and the latter, rural, poor subsistence living for the majority of black South Africans.
In living and working in both environments for extended periods of time, I would be fortunate to gain some understanding of the white South African point of view (both English and Afrikaans) and then also some understanding of the black South African perspective. For these experiences and insights at a young age I will be forever grateful. Gaining a first-hand understanding of others and otherness in a different country helps to broaden one’s mind. It helps to instil balance on the judgement of others. It helps to dispel prejudices.
My travel experiences in Africa at age eighteen helped me to gain a more well-rounded impression of the challenges being experienced by both whites and blacks in South Africa at that time. I came away with a broader perspective on life in South Africa and what it meant to be black and white post-apartheid. I now understood the importance of seeing matters through different people’s lenses.
My work and travel in South Africa are to this day one of the best periods of my life. It set me on a projectory of adventure and exploration across the globe. It gave me the confidence to embrace life to the fullest and ultimately the confidence to establish an organisation with my wife, with a core purpose to deliver experiences for life to young people through travel.
Right now, I draw on the memories, experiences and learnings of my travels in South Africa as a young person, for motivation to rebuild Student Horizons out of this Covid crisis, into an even more purposeful organisation than it was before. Student Horizons is in business to help create better human beings. This is something we will never give up on. Travel will resume and will change the world again and Student Horizons will be there to facilitate and deliver.