Sweethearts in South Africa

Today we are spotlighting two of our fabulous sisters, Paloma Cigarroa and Farrah Oxley. The two joined Texas Sweethearts in the Fall of 2013 as Nutrition majors. Upon realizing they both shared a passion for travel, culture, and helping others, they decided to study abroad in South Africa this summer through a faculty led trip at UT. The program allowed them to learn about nutrition, food, health culture and history in South Africa through a series of field experiences and guest lectures. They took two classes while abroad, one led by a UT Professor, Dr. Freeland-Graves, and another led by a South African faculty member on South Africa’s political history, culture and natural environment.   

Paloma and Farrah in front of The University of Cape Town.

Paloma and Farrah in front of The University of Cape Town.

South Africa Group

The girl’s Study Abroad group in South Africa.

Paloma and Farrah began their journey with a thirty-hour trip through London into Cape Town, Africa. They spent their first three weeks staying near The University of Cape Town in an area called Rondebosch. Those first few weeks consisted of many nutrition related activities such as visiting a micro farm where crops were grown for the public. They also visited many townships, the poorer areas of the city, and were struck by the financial disparity in certain areas. At one point the girls visited an elementary school in Cape Town in which underprivileged children transport, despite living miles away from the school. This was their favorite activity as they got to see the impact of a nutrition related association (Peninsula School Feeding Association) and how their commitment to nourishing children has increased attendance in the schools. The girls also visited St. Joseph’s home for sick children. There they were able to play with children who had AIDS, cancer, respiratory diseases, and even various degrees of burns. The course they took on South African political studies enlightened these experiences as well as the experience of visiting the cell in which Nelson Mandela was incarcerated in for over ten years on Robben Island. They were able to learn about the struggles of poverty and apartheid, and were astonished by the violence and brutality in the war to overcome racism. Their time in Cape Town opened their eyes to the hardships of life, and what it means to truly find beauty in making the most of every situation.

Farrah with students from the school they visited in South Africa.

Farrah with students from the school they visited in South Africa.

Paloma showing a few South African students how to Hook 'Em!

Paloma showing a few South African students how to Hook ‘Em!

In the moments the girls weren’t in the townships, they were able to enjoy the beautiful city by taking hikes, lounging by the bay, and enjoying The Cape Wheel, a giant ferris wheel overlooking the city. 

The Cape Wheel in Cape Town, South Africa.

The Cape Wheel in Cape Town, South Africa.

Paloma and Farrah at the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town.

The second half of their trip was spent in the small, affluent town of Stellenbosch. There the girls spent four days on a Safari in Kruger National Park spotting animals. They saw buffalo, cheetahs, leopards, elephants, crocodiles, hippopotami, zebras, warthogs, rhinos and even lions. They were also able to visit an African Sanctuary where they became aware of the intense dangers of poaching and harming animals in Africa. 

South African Safari

The girls leaving for the Safari with some friends.

Yes, they really did see elephants!

Yes, they really did see elephants!

And those are real lions!

While the girls weren’t spending time with the African animals, they were able to go on several wine and chocolate tastings and enjoy the picturesque scenery of the mountains and vineyards of South Africa. On these excursions they were able to learn more about the culture of South Africa as they interacted with it’s people. 

Sending us Sweetheart love!

The girls sending us Sweetheart love at Table Mountain National Park.

Overall, the girls couldn’t have imagined taking the trip without one another. They became closer as sisters and friends, and felt they mutually benefited in learning from one another. The girls were both given awards at the end of the trip based on how classmates and professors perceived them. Farrah received Most Confident and Paloma obtained Most Kind-Hearted. While they are now loved by many across the world, we are glad to have them home with us. These two ladies encourage us to live happier and healthier lives, and remind us to never take the education and luxuries we have at The University of Texas for granted. 

Until our next spotlight,

Texas Sweethearts