Vilai Chang

­­­­Vilai 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 try something different, I wanted to be out of my comfort zone, lastly I wanted to challenge myself. Before learning about all of the other study abroad programs, I knew I wanted to study abroad somewhere that will benefit my future goals, such as being a future educator. South Africa had the perfect service learning program. I read upon the different service sites it has and most of them had to do with working with elementary students and that's exactly what I wanted to do. The service learning aspect of South Africa provided me with life learning lessons that I will never forget.

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

A cultural experience that I had on my program that made a lasting impression was how friendly everyone is. It is in South Africa's blood to refer to everyone they see as sister or brother. To me, it was almost shocking. With that said, South Africa is a diverse country, it has 11 official languages and so many different cultures and traditions. South Africa's history is the most important part on this trip. Its rich, raw, and unforgettable history leaves a lasting impression on me that I will always remember.

Describe your overall study abroad experience.

My overall study abroad experience was challenging but amazing. It was challenging in ways that helped me grow as person, whether it be academically, professionally, and personally. It was amazing because it was a life changing moment for me. It was altogether a life learning experience that will always be replayed in my mind and 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?

Some benefits of studying abroad for the semester is that you come back brand new, in the way that you're able to see things from different perspectives. You're able to now connect in a different way and see things differently, and different is good. Studying abroad has contributed to my daily life because everyday that I was learning during my time abroad, it contributed to my long term success.

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

My advice is to be comfortable in uncomfortable experiences or situations. To immerse yourself in the culture, traditions and the country itself. Last but not least, challenge yourself because fear is temporary, regret is permanent!