Emily is an Ambassador who studied abroad in South Africa
Major: Biology Pre-medicine
Why did you choose to study abroad and how did you decide on this program?
Coming into college, I really hadn't though too much about study abroad, but once I started to familiarize myself with all of the option CSB had to offer, I was sure that I had to take advantage of the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I wanted to put myself out there and become more than a tourist in a foreign country.
I chose South Africa because I wanted to go somewhere unique that I probably wouldn't get another chance to visit on my own, and I was also very interested in the service component of the South Africa trip. I knew that I would want to give back to the country that was hosting me for four months. I was drawn to the idea of living in a place with amazing excursion opportunities and a culture totally different from my own.
Briefly describe a specific cultural experience you had on your trip that made a lasting impression.
One of the biggest things that I noticed throughout my time in South Africa was the disparity between my life and the life of the majority of South Africans. As a part of volunteering at Missionvale, we would go on home visits with the community healthcare workers. The first of these visits for me occurred shortly after arriving in the country, and as I walked around in the township, I was hyper-aware of being the only white person and being an American, but I was welcomed into the homes with open arms and lots of questions. Throughout the course of the semester, I became much more comfortable in the townships and was able to appreciate the challenges of the people in these communities. A group of fellow CSB/SJU students and I were invited by Auntie Rachel from Missionvale to attend church with her in the township one weekend. The service was held in an old shipping container, and despite the surroundings, the entire congregation was more joyful and enthusiastic than any other church service I have ever seen. The resilience of the South African people was truly inspiring.
Describe your overall study abroad experience.
Study abroad was absolutely amazing. It is hard to even put into words what it is like to immerse yourself in a totally different place and become part of what seems like another world. I fell in love with the country and its people. The service, excursions, and personal relationships with South Africans really allowed me to discover the heart of South Africa.
Based on your experiences abroad, what are some of the benefits of spending a semester abroad? How has studying abroad contributed to your personal, academic, and professional development?
Study Abroad made me much more independent, confident, and in-tune with the world outside of the United States. I developed meaningful relationships with South Africans that taught me about the world and about myself. Academically, study abroad allowed to study courses outside of my normal science classes, which contributed to a true liberal arts education. At the Missionvale Community Center where I volunteered, I had the opportunity to serve in a clinic, which gave me amazing experiences that will differentiate me from the pool of applicants applying to medical school.
What advice can you offer for CSB/SJU students who are considering or planning to study abroad?
If you can make it work, do it. You will not regret it. Study abroad was the most amazing semester of my life, and I learned more about myself and the world around me than I ever thought possible, while also having a lot of fun. When you are studying abroad, take advantage of every opportunity available to you, because it is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.