Claire Kelly

Claire is an Ambassador who studied abroad in South Africa
Major: Elementary Education

Why did you choose to study abroad and how did you decide on this program?

I chose to study abroad because I wanted to take myself out of my comfort zone and experience another part of the world. Studying abroad was a goal I had for myself for a long time even before coming to college. I decided to study abroad in South Africa because I was able to study and do service as well. Africa is unlike any other program and seemed the farthest out of my comfort zone. In addition I didn't know if I would have another opportunity to visit South Africa in the near future.

Briefly describe a specific cultural experience you had on your trip that made a lasting impression.

During my time in South Africa I did my service learning portion of the program at House of Resurrection which is also known as the AIDS Haven. I had the opportunity to work in the play school with all the children who were not yet of school age. Being an elementary education major, my life's passion is working with children, so I really enjoyed working there. In addition to working with children, it was a very immersive experience. The South African townships where House is, is unlike anything I have ever seen and definitely a big part of the culture there. Seeing them was an experience but working and interacting with the people of the community living there was really something special and something I will never forget.

Describe your overall study abroad experience.

My study abroad experience has changed my life. I learned so many things about myself and about the country and people of South Africa. I was really pushed out of my comfort zone being immersed in the culture at school at NMMU and also at service in the townships. It was a big adjustment but I am so glad that I pushed myself because the experiences and memories I had there are unforgettable.

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?

I think the biggest benefit of studying abroad is getting out of your comfort zone and having experiences you never would have had while staying here in St. Joseph, Minnesota. I had once in a lifetime experiences with people, animals, and places I visited that I never would have had if I stayed here at home in my comfort zone. Another benefit would be growing as a person. While abroad I learned so much about myself and who I am as a person and what my true values are. If I hadn't gone abroad I don't think I would have been able to learn as much about myself. Studying abroad has contributed to my personal life by really valuing my relationships with my family and friends. My academic development has grown in terms of my motivation to work hard and graduate because not everyone is given this opportunity of schooling. My professional development has grown because I was able to work with children and people of a different culture than my own and find connections with them and reach across any barriers between us.

What advice can you offer for CSB/SJU students who are considering or planning to study abroad?

I understand and respect that studying abroad is not for everyone but I encourage any student who has considered going abroad to participate. Going abroad was one of the scariest experiences of my life but also was the most rewarding experiences. Looking back I was so happy and thankful to have been given the opportunity to be able to go and have an amazing life changing experience.

Do you have questions about studying abroad in South Africa, or want to have access to my blog? Email Claire at