Emily 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 in order to gain a more global perspective on the world as well as the different communities that I am a part of. I chose to study abroad in South Africa because it was an opportunity to truly immerse myself in a culture much different than my own. I wanted to get out of my comfort zone and see how only cultures and people live, and this trip gave me that opportunity. I also was very drawn to the service aspect that comes along with the South Africa program.
Briefly describe a specific cultural experience you had on your trip that made a lasting impression.
While in South Africa we had the opportunity to participate in a number of home stays throughout the country. One of them was in the black township of Gugulethu, outside of Cape Town. During this time I was able to live and bond with a family for two nights whose culture, lifestyle and background was completely different than my own, yet they welcomed me into their home and hearts with open arms. This experience showed me how universal love and acceptance is, which was quite powerful considering South Africa is dealing with some very troubling racial tensions at this time.
Describe your overall study abroad experience.
Overall my study abroad experience was completely lifechanging. I had so many once in a lifetime experiences that changed who I am as a person for the better. The people that I met in South Africa, both locally and from CSBSJU are people that I now consider some of my best friends. By studying in South Africa I gained a much better understanding of how other countries do things differently than we do, and how that is not necessrily a good or bad thing, it is simply different. I was really able to get a better understanding of who I am and what I think my role in this world and life is by studying abroad in 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?
By studying abroad I learned how to adapt, critically think, observe, listen and be present. All of these are skills that we have been taught to work on our whole lives, but by immersing yourself in a different country and culture, your senses are hightened and you are able to do all of these much better. I was able to learn so much about myself through other people and their lifestyles and culture that I could not have done had I not traveled abroad.
What advice can you offer for CSB/SJU students who are considering or planning to study abroad?
The idea may seem intimidating at the time, but should you have and interest or curiosity at all, look into it and step outside your comfort zone. You won't regret taking the chance and pushing yourself because you will grow so much as a person and learn so much about yourself. It is an experience that you may never get again, so jump at it when you have the chance!