Madeline Hester '20

Program: South Africa Spring Semester

Major: Accounting

Minor: Communication


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

I always knew that I wanted to spend a semester abroad. South Africa was not originally on my list of potential study abroad programs, but as I thought about it more I realized that there are so many great opportunities built into this program (and I really wanted to see a wild giraffe). I spent two mornings a week at a service site, took a Marine Biology course with labs on the beach, and went on a lot of group excursions. I also wanted to go to South Africa because I didn't know when I would get another opportunity to go there. It is such a beautiful country and I knew I could never see everything I wanted to see during a short vacation.

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

At Langerry we had "House Mamas", which are women who would clean up our apartment during the day while we were at service learning or class. Our House Mama's name was Audrey. She referred to all of us as her children and never failed to greet us with a hug. Audrey loved talking to us and would happily answer any question you asked her. One of the most shocking things she told me was how she takes three taxis to get to work in the morning because the taxi routes are fairly short. Even though she has this long and tiring commute everyday, she was always excited to see us.

Describe your overall study abroad experience.

Choosing to go to South Africa was one of the best decisions I have ever made. I got to see and do so many things that I could never do while living in Minnesota. I went on three safaris, spent my 21st birthday at the beach, went surfing with my program leaders, and came home with 31 new friends that I probably wouldn't have met if I didn't study abroad.

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 in South Africa taught me how to be more flexible and keep an open mind. You cannot plan for everything that will happen during your semester abroad. There are quite a few cultural differences between the United States and South Africa, but as learn more about them they will begin to seem less strange. As someone who is used to taking a lot of Accounting exams, it was a bit difficult to get used to taking classes that focus on writing and presentations. However, I know that it is important to have good communication skills regardless of your major.

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

Choose the program that is the right fit for you. Do not be afraid of not knowing anyone. Most of the people I went to South Africa with did not know very many people in our group before we left. We got to know each other very quickly and now I can't even imagine spending my semester abroad with any other group of Bennies and Johnnies.