It seems like just yesterday when the 2017 SAWIP cohort journey started early this year. Fast-track to 10th June 2017; departure date for many first time travellers to a destination outside of South Africa. This date also signalled the start of the second leg of the SAWIP experience.

The nerves and excitement were palpable when the team set foot on US soil very early on Sunday morning. Meeting of host families, many conversations, questions, photos and smiles as well as relaying the important “I am safe and sound” text to family and friends back home, was the order of the day.

The official orientation that took place on Monday at Hogan Lovells could be summed up by the theme of the presentation by Carol Corneilse, and Phyllis Slayde Martin (both members of the US SAWIP advisory council members); “What is in your backpack?”

The orientation session afforded the team an opportunity to express their excitement but also to equip them with much needed information on how to navigate the differences and new environment across the Atlantic.

One important take-away message from the session was the reflection on the things we carry with us when we embark on journeys such as this. These things can be tangible, like books and cameras that each remind us of past experiences but also help us memorialise new ones. However, the intangible also finds place in our backpacks and these could be our stories, where we come from, our values, fears and experiences.

19105889_1329536090494479_1888067059700344338_nThe session was also a reminder to many of us that we also carry the memories, hopes and dreams of our late team member Mikhail Hendricks with us. The team committed to always honouring the life of the remarkable young South African he was.

While this is set to be a journey filled with opportunities to learn, explore and build new friendships this will also be an opportunity for the team to share their stories and experiences as South Africans with the many different people who either call DC home or who too may be exploring the city for a portion of this summer.