Reflections on an amazing study abroad experience

Hey everyone!

Coming home was not as difficult as I thought it would be. Other than the long 25.5 hours I spent either on a plane or in an airport, the actual goodbye process was not too bad (surprisingly). After not living in America for 5 months, I had a very glamorized view on what it would be like to be home—Chipotle, ice cream sundaes, Wawa, friends/family, free internet etc. However, I somehow forgot the fact that I don’t have any money to spend on the food I want (especially since my computer is broken AGAIN), and it seems that being home has just been a constant argument between my sister and I about who gets the car (gotta love sisterly love!)—a first world problem, that after being in South Africa I shouldn’t even be complaining about.

And of course, I cannot forget to mention the reverse culture shock of being home:

  • You no longer stand out—as a foreigner you always attracted more interest to you
  • Being at home is unchallenging, and surviving another day no longer feels like an achievement
  • Your view on your home town is way too glamorized in your mind
  • You miss friends and a culture that you were always around for the past 5 months
  • In general, the whole adjustment from a third world country to a wealthier area in a first world country is just weird and doesn’t make sense
  • Lastly, you have to come to an understanding that most people will not understand your time in South Africa

With all this being said, I absolutely love the comfort of being home, and am so excited to catch up with friends and family! 5 months was just the right time to be away, and I am happy to be home.

If anyone is reading this who is going to South Africa or considering it (I know I stalked many, many blogs before I came—South Africa doesn’t seem to have a “25 things I learned/did in South Africa while abroad” type of article on Buzzfeed that European countries often do) be prepared for the best time of your life. South Africa is a hidden secret of study abroad destinations that should be more widely known about.

While driving through Namibia, Colleen, Juliana, and I made a list of the top things we learned in South Africa (in no particular order):

  1. South Africa teaches you to live in the now (or the “now now” as I like to joke…South Africa says “now now” instead of now)—Africa Time.
  2. Ostriches are the WEIRDEST looking animals and are EVERYWHERE in South Africa.
  3. If you want to become friends with Europeans, go to South Africa—I have honestly learned more about Europe and America than I did while in America. It is surprisingly hard to become friends with locals when abroad, especially if you live with internationals. We live in a global village, with much diversity even in our own country.
  4. Race is 100% socially constructed. This unfortunately often ends in racial profiling.
  5. It is ignorant to classify all of Africa into one group of people—there are 54 different countries with very, very, very unique and traditional cultures.
  6. There are poverties (not poverty).
  7. 70 degree weather= ugg boots and winter jackets. There is no heating (or air conditioning) anywhere in South Africa.
  8. The Rainbow Nation has come a long way in 20 years, but many changes still must be made (and will be made with the potential in the upcoming generations).
  9. Not being connected to wifi, makes you more connected to real life (as cliché as this sounds, its 100% true). Don’t make the mistake of missing some of the best moments of life because you are hiding behind a screen.
  10. Nothing is as big as a problem as you think it is. I am extremely lucky to call the United States of America my home. We do sometimes have a bad representation (and yes, the stereotype that we are a loud culture is incredibly true), but in the end we have freedoms that many, many people dream to have. Be grateful for what we are given.
  11. Evidently milk and eggs do not need to be refrigerated…(still questionable…).
  12. There is so much importance in human connectedness. What we chose to do everyday effects the people around us (and vice versa). You might be surprised to see just how similar people are in all cultures of the world.
  13. No shoes, no problem—really though, no one wears shoes in South Africa anywhere.
  14. As cliché as this sounds, I learned so much about myself in South Africa. My friend said in LSCE after reflecting on her time in South Africa, “I know who I am, and I like who I am”…I feel reaffirmed about what I want to do in the future, and I am extremely excited for that.
  15. Lastly, one of my favorite quotes from LSCE: “change the way you look at the world, and the world will change”—realize how powerful you are in creating your own happiness and success

And a list of my favorite experiences while in South Africa (and why other people should studying abroad here as well!):

  1. Bungee jumping off the highest bungee jump bridge in the world
  2. Skydiving in Cape Town (the city, mountains, the ocean, and sand dunes all in one view)
  3. Shark cage diving
  4. Seeing the big five animals without all the cages and crowdedness of zoos
  5. Traveling to countries like Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Mozambique
  6. If you go to Namibia: climbing the highest sand dune in the world (and being in the oldest desert in Africa, and possibly the whole world)
  7. Skipping winter in America!
  8. If you got to Stellenbosch, taking the Learning for Sustainable Community Engagement Program
  9. South Africa will be the most beautiful and most diverse country you have ever been too
  10. Doing adventurous things everyday–every crazy activity you ever dreamed of doing, you can do in South Africa
  11. Playing with ostriches (and riding them)
  12. Wine, wine, and more wine
  13. Staying cheaply in the most awesome hostels you could imagine
  14. Amazing and cheap food
  15. Africa time—you MIGHT check what time it is once a day (time just doesn’t matter when you’re abroad in South Africa)
  16. Internet might suck, but I promise not having internet often will contribute to an amazing experience
  17. Monkey’s everywhere
  18. Not caring at all about how you look because in 5 months, you will be back in America
  19. Meeting the most adventurous, aware, and fun group of people you can imagine—You will have the most deep conversations while abroad in South Africa, I promise
  20. Finally, seeing views like these:

1962834_10202743851670200_1618549057_n1891036_10202743865030534_93368743_n 10440733_10203506001563471_6493335088594082350_n10341968_10203375731346797_4863951548510219710_n1014462_10203136565087790_7887157125880222030_n1723246_10202602883706089_1032298981_n10156094_10203506018403892_3705567611262496882_n1798481_10202596503986600_1617232954_n

 

 

I couldn’t have asked for a better semester abroad!

Until next time South Africa,

Leah

 

 

 

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