Have friend, will travel

International programs bring students closer together

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Nicole Zulu and Harlee Pratt
Nicole Zulu '14 and Harlee Pratt '14 enjoy the breathtaking scenery at Machu Picchu, a 15th-century Inca site in the Cusco Region of Peru.

Nicole Zulu ’14 and Harlee Pratt ’14 will never forget the day they visited the townships of Soweto, South Africa, and met the children there, kids who live in tiny tin shacks called huthouses. After watching the children dance and talking to them about life in their township, it was difficult to say goodbye.

“I remember when we drove away and the children were chasing us,” Zulu says. “I was crying. That day will forever stay with me. It really hit me hard in my heart.”

It’s these kinds of unforgettable experiences that keep these classmates, roommates and long-time friends trotting around the world. As dual-degree students (both are graduating with a master’s in public administration and master’s in social work), Zulu and Pratt have participated in three international programs offered by CCPA, traveling together to South Africa, Peru and, most recently, China.

These trips have brought the two, who were “joined at the hip” before, even closer together.

“We’re more family than just classmates at this point,” Pratt says. “As a group, you’re traveling together, you’re experiencing these things together. You get really close and learn a lot of things about each other.”

Pratt had never traveled abroad, except for Canada, before jetting off to South Africa. But the experience gave him something he’d always wanted: immersion.

“Before we left, we read [Nelson] Mandela’s biography,” Pratt says. “We were right in Soweto where the uprising took place, so it was really interesting to do the readings, then go see the place we were reading about.”

Zulu, whose family lives in Costa Rica, had traveled a lot before coming to college, but she says that her experiences abroad — living with a host family in Peru and dancing (or, as she says, “attempting to dance”) in China — have helped her grow.

“All three programs have further enhanced my abilities and contributed to me being a more culturally competent person,” Zulu says. “I’m surprised each time I go how much I grow from each experience.”

Pratt and Zulu have collected more than just experiences. Zulu has what she calls an “ethnic room,” filled with paintings, masks, dolls and other souvenirs from her travels. If these diehard explorers have it their way (both want to travel to Greece and Italy someday, preferably together), they’ll add even more souvenirs to their collections.

“We’ve already talked about doing more study abroad,” Zulu says. “It’s an investment in the future and in ourselves. Honestly, I will continue to travel at any opportunity that I have.”