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It’s probably safe to say that Alicia, Allyson, Jose, Tavion and Zavon didn’t expect they’d be spending the July 4th holiday in airports and on planes, heading thousands of miles away from America.

But that’s exactly what these five students will be doing – they’re bound for South Africa to participate in the Stellenbosch International Chamber Music Festival July 6-15. They’ll be joined by two MMI chaperones and a quartet of student musicians from MMI grantee PRIZM Ensemble, who’ll be performing in the festival.

The MMI Works externship is an international work experience available to students already engaged with MMI Works. To qualify for the externship, students must have successfully completed at least one summer internship cycle, and attended at least 12 of the MMI Works extended school-year professional development sessions. Students are selected based on their engagement level with the program during the summer and through the year, and on their personal and professional growth during that time.

After they were selected, these five had quite a bit of work to do to get ready for their journey. They attended orientation sessions with MMI staff, and they had some homework, too. The students were required to read one book of their choice about South Africa before the trip – maybe Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela, Invictus by John Carlin or Born a Crime by Trevor Noah – and while there, they’ll be doing some writing of their own as they journal about the experience. They’re expected to write 3-4 pages of reflections daily, including lessons learned, exciting discoveries, and connections they’ve made between their home in Memphis and the places they’re exploring in South Africa.

In addition to their reading, the students had some preparation to do for their intern roles at Stellenbosch. They’ll be helping to record performances at the festival, so they needed to have basic knowledge of audio recording software ProTools. On three Sunday afternoons in June, they worked with MMI Fellow Ty Boyland at Young Avenue Sound studio in Cooper Young to learn the ropes. They left for Stellenbosch with skills in basic recording and mixing.

“The Stellenbosch International Chamber Music Festival aims to provide talented young South African musicians with the opportunity to study, perform and be inspired by chamber music and orchestral playing at an internationally recognized and professional standard. This 10-day festival puts Stellenbosch University and South Africa on the international music calendar as an event of outstanding musicianship and as a nurturing ground for young talent. This festival facilitates the growth of young musicians and creates opportunities for them to further their music studies, thereby contributing significantly to South Africa’s rich and diverse cultural heritage.”

The festival concludes on July 15, but our interns won’t be home until July 21 – they’ve got a packed schedule during their final seven days. The highlights include a guided trip to Robben Island, where Nobel Laureate and former President of South Africa Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 18 years (of the 27 he served) before the fall of Apartheid. Robben Island is a South African National Heritage Site and a UNESCO World Heritage site.

It won’t be the only UNESCO World Heritage Site they explore – they’ll also visit Table Mountain National Park. They’ll sightsee in Cape Town and go on a safari!

With that itinerary, the journaling they have to do is sure to come easy. We’ll be sharing some of their reflections here in August and in the September issue of The Chronicle, so be sure to check back to hear how it went directly from the world travelers.