The Back from Africa retreat is one of my favorite events of the year. There always seems to be a sense of vitality in the room as people come in excited about the opportunity to revisit their usually impactful summers abroad. Our goal is to provide students with a reflective space in which they can share their research, service or internship experiences with faculty who work on Africa, as well as to deepen that reflection by hearing about their peer’s experiences and insights.
On a sunny Friday afternoon in mid-October, Sean Hanretta, the center’s new director opened the retreat by speaking about the difficulty of transition periods and readjustment after travelling for a significant amount of time. He shared that one of the ways that personally helps him cope with the culture shock on both sides of the Atlantic is to try and integrate his research and time in Africa with his life here at Stanford. Acknowledging the difficulty of doing that in the midst of daily craziness at Stanford, he pointed students to the many small ways through which they can continue their engagement with Africa – whether its attending a talk or showing up to a party at CAS, or simply tapping into a community of Africanists and people passionate about working in, or thinking about Africa.
With that, students were split up into groups depending on whether they did research, service or internships and given some time for group reflection, moderated by a faculty member. The afternoon ended with delicious food as per usual, and a soundtrack of contemporary African music to end on an always positive note about the potential that exists in the tensions of moving between different geographies, sociopolitical categories and cosmological realities.