Cassidy Calcaterra '20

Program: South Africa Spring Semester

Major: Environmental Studies

Minor: Biology

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

I chose to study abroad because I wanted to diversify my learning experiences, especially in regards to where, what, and how I was learning. I also wanted to challenge myself in new ways, both academically and personally. By choosing to study abroad in South Africa, I achieved both of these objectives. Out of all the programs offered, South Africa seemed most out of my comfort zone, and I wasn't sure if I would have another chance to travel here on my own. The experience proved extremely rewarding for my growth as a student and an individual.

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

During spring break, our group stayed with local families in a township outside of Cape Town. Because there were thirty or so of us, around ten families opened their homes and provided us with beds and meals for three days. Despite the high rates of poverty in the neighborhood, each individual offered as much as they could. The woman that I stayed with even offered her own bed to my peers. I was (and continue to be) surprised by the amount of hospitality and optimism shown by these community members. We were able to learn about and from each other in ways that a traditional classroom would not provide.

Describe your overall study abroad experience.

It is increasingly difficult to describe study abroad in just a few words. Through township visits, service learning, group excursions, adrenaline-pumping adventures, field trips, conversations with locals, and a well-kept journal, I've been able to see myself grow in ways that I wouldn't have predicted. I've gained a more global perspective on issues that I'm passionate about, and have made new, lasting friends with South Africans and other CSB/SJU students.

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?

Spending a semester abroad allows you to continue your growth as a student in a new environment. It gave me an exciting change from the comfort of campus, while still allowing me to fulfill credits--both towards my major and common curriculum. Study abroad also offers new subjects that are not offered at CSB/SJU, like Marine Biology (with labs right on the coast), South African Music (with field trips to shebeens and taverns), and South African Literature (with novels that provide useful, cultural insight to the host country). Along with academic development, I was able to work on my professional development by networking with a few environmental agencies in the area, who have remained in contact about employment post-graduation. Perhaps most significantly, the amount of personal development I've seen after a semester abroad is incomparable to any other experience I've had. I feel more like myself after being able to pursue and share my passions with others.

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

If you are considering studying or interning abroad, but are not sure whether this commitment is for you, I would recommend examining the sources of your hesitance, first. For example, if you're unsure of the decision due to finances or fulfilling credits, speak to an advisor or professor. There are lots of resources on campus to help you get where you want to go! If the withholding stems from fear of being away from friends, being uncomfortable, or traveling new places, do not fret! Before leaving the U.S., I felt all of those things. Being uncomfortable can be one of the best things to see growth and development within yourself. There's no harm in filling out an application and seeing how you feel. If you're still unsure, reach out to ambassadors and the CGE. We're here to help!