Religion and transnationalism : exploring knowledge acquisition about African traditional religion among international semester abroad students at UKZN.
The mobility of students is a phenomenon which is rapidly growing globally. This study is located at the intersection of migration studies and religion, with a specific consideration of how semester-abroad learn about other cultures and religions. The internationalisation of universities, and appetite for international education have made the mobility of students an increasingly engaging area of study. With the end of Apartheid, South Africa and its universities have become a desirable destination for students from all over the world. International education is a major contributor for student mobility and it is premised on the idea that once a student leaves their country of origin to study abroad amongst different cultures they develop a better way of reflecting on their own country, their education and that they also develop a better perspective concerning the host country. Most semester abroad students travelling to South Africa are interested in the country’s cultural, linguistic and religious diversity, while many other wish to be part of the development of the country’s emerging democracy. It is precisely in the light of this focus on diversity and development that this study seeks to establish the kind of contact international students have with indigenous religions and practices, and how such experiences shape their orientation towards African Traditional Religion. This will be achieved through interviewing undergraduate semester abroad students who are a part of campus at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. Firstly, inquiry focused on the role of religion in international programmes that the students were a part off. Secondly, it interrogated what kind of contact did the students encounter with African traditional religion and how did it reflect on their religious literacy. Considering the pervasiveness of religion in South Africa, religion does not feature enough within semester abroad programmes. It does not go beyond a ‘tourist’ visit which means that students learn about African traditional religion in very stereotypical ideas.