Cole Engstrand '20

Program: South Africa Spring Semester

Major: Global Business

Minor: Communication


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

I looked throughout programs and none seemed to grab my attention, then I spoke with someone who went to South Africa and my perception was changed. I learned all about South Africa within my FYS class and suddenly I remembered a lot about the country and wanted to continue my learning in the country itself. To be honest I didn't research a lot or look at many photos because I wanted to be surprised and have the ultimate cultural shock and in my opinion that was the right way to do it.

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

During one of our first townships visits within Johannesburg, we walked into a town that seemed like it had been abandoned, but slowly people crept out and emerged. The town smelt awful, trash was everywhere, and the locals were grilling goat intestines for a meal for the day. Needless to say, I was out of my element, coming from one of the cleanest countries in the world to seeing the dirtiest place I've been was a shock. But the thing that still sits with me today was the fact that all of the people weren't frowning or sad, no they were happy and shared laughter with each other because they had settled with themselves and were far happier with fewer possessions. I still think about how most of the people I saw in that country were probably happier than most of the US and they had a fraction of what we had here.

Describe your overall study abroad experience.

Unreal, probably will go down as the best trip of my life. The people really made it special, our group was so close and shared everything and that made a huge difference. I'm glad I got to share such a life-changing experience and explore a new place with so many great people.

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?

The personal growth is the section that stands out for me. Academics remained very much the same although I was pushed abroad with the schoolwork. I changed as a person on how I view my place in life and my good fortunes. You see so many people that have little to nothing and it really affects your experience. It's sad but it affects how you think about your situation. I feel as if I can't complain about a lot anymore. When I’m hungry or can't sleep well, I think about people that can't afford a simple piece of food or let alone have a mat to lay on at night.

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

Do it, if you are on the fence just decide to go. You’ll meet amazing people and grow so much as a person. Nothing against Saint Joseph Minnesota, but there is a cap on what you can experience. Going across the world immediately changes your perspective in the best way possible. I learn the most about myself when I am uncomfortable and being put in uncomfortable situations abroad was when I grew the most as a person and changed my outlooks on a lot of things.