Hannah Long '20
Program: South Africa Spring Semester
Major: Elementary Education
Why did you choose to study abroad and how did you decide on this program?
CSB+SJU is known for the amazing study abroad programs offered to students. Studying abroad is highly promoted and encouraged by the CSB+SJU community. I wanted to take advantage of the once in a life time opportunity to live, learn and grow somewhere across the world. I chose South Africa because it is unique to the other programs offered because it involves a service learning component. South Africa also offers more experience for my dollar with adventurous/outdoorsy excursions.
Briefly describe a specific cultural experience you had on your trip that made a lasting impression.
During my time in South Africa I experienced a lot of "Cultural Bumps". Cultural Bumps happen when I run into something that completely clashes with my culture and force me to look deeply into my own culture and norms. Most of my cultural bumps happened while I was volunteering in a local elementary school. I was put in a position to teach and encourage students who live completely different lives than me, and more than often speak a different language than I do. This experience taught me that it is actually easier to find similarities than differences within two cultures. The students I worked with crossed all cultural barriers and taught me what it means to have pure joy regardless of external conditions.
Describe your overall study abroad experience.
I now associate events in my life into two categories: Pre-South Africa and Post-South Africa. My study abroad experience was a pivotal moment in which I learned about myself and the world. I made life long friendships and do not regret a single moment in the four months I spent in that beautiful country.
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 spending a semester abroad are gaining a new sense of independence, getting out of my comfort zone physically and mentally, gaining teaching experience as an Elementary Education major, and becoming close with some of the most amazing individuals - that I may have not met otherwise! I have become my more authentic self and developed an understanding of my place in the world. Studying a foreign country extensively has taught me a lot about my own country. I also feel more confident in my teaching career than ever before through my volunteer experiences.
What advice can you offer for CSB+SJU students who are considering or planning to study abroad?
If you're on the fence about studying abroad: just do it. There is not a better time to push yourself out of your comfort zone than right now. You will be investing in yourself and you will not regret it! The memories and growth from abroad experiences are priceless.