Kristin Blom

­­­­Kristin 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?

One of the reasons I chose to attend CSBSJU when I was considering colleges was the well-developed study abroad program the schools offer. I wanted to study abroad because I saw it as a unique learning experience to live and study in another country for four months. I specifically chose South Africa largely due to the service learning component of the program. My experiences at Pendla Primary School challenged me in ways I never imagined, which has shaped the way I view community development in both a local and global context.

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

When I think of my semester abroad, the first experience that immediately comes to mind is my service learning at Pendla Primary School. I had preconceived notions that I would feel comfortable from the start because I have been in lots of classrooms and love working with children. However, walking into Ma'am Makina's grade 4 classroom on the first day was shocking. I had to hold back tears as I witnessed the condition of the classroom and lack of resources that the teacher and students faced. My days at Pendla encompassed the highest of highs and the lowest of lows during my time abroad. My learners taught me how to smile, how to give, and how to love freely. My teacher showed me what strength and vulnerability look like. Grade 4B has forever left an imprint on my heart. 

Describe your overall study abroad experience.

If I were to sum up my time in South Africa, it was filled with:
1. Opportunities to learn more about South Africa each day from local friends, classes at NMMU, community events, and excursions
2. New CSBSJU friends who truly became family
3. Experiences that challenged me to consider issues of privilege, inequity, race, and service
4. Ocean views every day
5. Adventures of a lifetime. When in doubt, say yes! You won't regret it.
6. One teacher and classroom of grade 4 students who still have a piece of my heart

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?

Studying abroad, specifically in South Africa, challenges you to be adaptable. If you saw my planner, you'd know I'm one that always likes to know what's happening next. However, living in the moment and being flexible were crucial to adjust to "Africa time". Some of the greatest memories during my semester happened because I was willing to embrace spontaneity. Increased adaptability is something I brought back home with me that has impacted both my personal growth and professional development as a teacher.

Another benefit that came from studying abroad was the opportunity to reflect on U.S. culture by immersing myself in South Africa's unique culture and societal structure. It's history of Apartheid continues to define the way people live and interact with one another, and this made me perceive America's governing system and social issues in a new light.

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

To those considering studying abroad:
I believe there is a program out there for everyone! Do your research about the programs and the countries. You will find your fit. It is okay to be nervous or anxious about it. Studying abroad should push you out of your comfort zone!

To those who are planning to study abroad:
If someone were to ask me what one word of advice I can offer to CSBSJU students about studying abroad, it would be INTENTIONALITY. Yes, you will be exposed to a new culture, new ideas, and new people by choosing to study abroad. However, it is your responsibility to create opportunities to move beyond exposure so you can truly immerse yourself in the culture of your country. Adventure awaits!