Allison Hemmesch '21

Program: South Africa Spring Semester

Major: Biology, Pre-Medicine 


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

I chose to study abroad to fully immerse myself into a completely different culture other than my own. I have always craved adventure, and I knew that studying abroad would be a new adventure that would challenge me emotionally and educationally. With my time abroad, I absolutely DID NOT want to just be a tourist in the country/countries I would be in. I wanted to dive into the culture somehow and become a part of the community I was living in. South Africa drew me right in because of the service learning component of this program. I knew that I wanted to make a difference abroad somehow, and by having the ability to volunteer in a primary school, I feel that I was able to make a difference in the lives of the students I worked with. 

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

The biggest lesson I learned while abroad that has forever made a lasting impact on my life is that money does not buy happiness and does not determine your worth. Some of the happiest, most down to earth, most genuine people that I met were living out of shacks with virtually nothing. It takes no money and no materialistic things to be a good person! 

Describe your overall study abroad experience. 

My overall study abroad experience was incredible. I was able to see the most serene and picturesque landscapes, was able to learn about a beautiful culture, and was able to meet some of the most genuine, happy and down to earth people. Like mentioned below, I truly discovered who I am and who I want to be. I learned that I can do things outside of my comfort zone and thrive. I was able to make friendships that I know will last a lifetime. While not every single day abroad was the best day of my life, overall, I had 8 incredible weeks in a country I learned to love and call home. 

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 time that I spent in South Africa was the best 8 weeks of my life. I grew as a person in more ways than I thought possible. Before going abroad, I viewed myself as a pretty independent person who knew exactly who I was. Boy was I wrong. I didn't have everything figured out like I originally thought, but after going abroad, I was able to find so many of the answers I was looking for. I became so much more independent, learned so many things about myself and gained self confidence that I have never before had. 
Academically, I was able to get credits towards my common curriculum requirements plus 2 credits towards my biology degree with. I was able to get useful credits from every class. These credits were so much fun to do abroad, and I think I grew academically by being taught by professors from a different university with backgrounds completely different from my own and backgrounds different from faculty at CSB/SJU. It was amazing to learn about and live in a country with such a rich and diverse history. All of the Nelson Mandela tours we did were fascinating! 
Professionally, I was able to get a better understanding of a different culture and was able to communicate with people who didn't necessarily speak my language. Learning to work with and interact with others/being able to understand different cultural views will be extremely important for my career in medicine. 

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

Just do it!! If you are even considering it, go! I have heard from so many people that they regret not studying abroad in college. Don't be one of those people! Don't look back with any regrets. 
If you are planning to study abroad, the biggest piece of advice I have for you is to make a conscious effort to soak up every single second. Don't waste your days away napping or on your phone. Don't let yourself get caught up on what is going on back home. Your friends/family back home and social media will still be there when you get back. Your trip is far too short to waste it away! Soak up every single second because you never know when you could get sent home and your last day comes before you know it! 

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