Olivia Musser is an Ambassador who studied abroad in South Africa
Why did you choose to study abroad and how did you decide on this program?
I chose to study abroad because I wanted to experience an entirely new way of life and to gain new perspectives. I was drawn to South Africa because I liked the challenge of going outside of my comfort zone and immersing myself into a unique culture that was very different from my own. I am passionate about volunteering, so I loved that the South Africa program had a service learning component. I was also intrigued by the physical geography of South Africa and all of the opportunities there to explore nature and the outdoors. In terms of learning, South Africa offered interesting courses that would even count for some of my common curriculum requirements. Overall, South Africa was the perfect fit for me because it encompassed everything that I was looking for in a study abroad program.
Briefly describe a specific cultural experience you had on your trip that made a lasting impression.
One of the best decisions that I made while I was abroad was joining the soccer team at my university with a few other girls in my group. I remember being really nervous when I showed up on the first day of practice, but all of the girls were super welcoming and were excited about Americans joining the team. We were able to go to many practices and even a few games when our schedule allowed for it. During our last week in South Africa, the team threw us a farewell party. To thank them for letting us become a part of their team, we gathered a ton of Blazer/Bennie gear from our group and gave each girl and coach a t-shirt. They were so excited about this! Looking back, I am so glad that I took a chance and joined the team. Soccer was a great way to learn more about the culture, develop friendships, and view a sport from a whole new angle.
Describe your overall study abroad experience.
My study abroad experience was absolutely wonderful! I could not have asked for a better 4 months or a greater group of CSB/SJU students to share it with. It was so rewarding figuring out how to go about daily life in an entirely new culture. I learned and grew in ways that I had never even imagined. I gained so much confidence and feel equipped to tackle any challenges and new situations that life throws my way. I developed a love for traveling and adventure and hope to make seeing the world a priority in my life.
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?
There are endless benefits to studying abroad! Personally, I gained so much confidence. I have found that after studying abroad I am much less timid and feel much more comfortable handling myself in new situations. I will never again be afraid to ask for help or clarification! Academically, I was exposed to different teaching styles and perspectives. I was able to learn about common subjects through the lens of another culture. Professionally, I gained skills that employers look for, such as adaptability, openness, and global citizenship.
What advice can you offer for CSB/SJU students who are considering or planning to study abroad?
1. Be adaptable! Things will rarely go as planned, so going with the flow is key.
2. Try new things. Getting involved with a sport or activity can be the best way to meet locals and learn more about the culture.
3. Do your best to find balance between academics and experiencing life in your host country. It is important to devote time to your studies, but make sure that you also make time to immerse yourself in the culture!