Where did you study abroad? How did you choose your programs?
I studied abroad in Cape Town, South Africa in the spring of 2015 with Institute for the International Education of Students. My cousin is married to a South African and since I was little I've always wanted to go there. When I was trying to decide where to study abroad, I knew that I wanted to go somewhere that would challenge me, that had warm weather, and that I may never have the chance to travel to again. South Africa, with it's complex socio-political history and gorgeous landscapes, seemed like to perfect place for me to spend a semester!
How has studying abroad changed your global perspective?
My semester in South Africa changed my global perspective in too many ways to count. I took courses at the University of Cape Town that challenged me to think about world events in new ways, experienced how diverse one country can be in terms of landscapes and weather, people and perspectives, witnessed the devastating impact of extreme social and economic inequality, and became part of one of the most politically active student bodies in the world. Ultimately, I learned that every person has a unique set of experiences that influence the way they see the world. Each of these diverse perspectives deserve to be heard and valued.
How did classes you took abroad differ from courses offered on campus at CWRU?
As a study abroad student I was able to take courses both at the University of Cape Town (UCT) and through IES (my provider program). As a UCT student I was able to take courses that focused specifically on social, political and economic issues facing South Africa. I took courses related to crime and violence, gender and sexuality and medical anthropology. In every course, the influence of apartheid on the subject was discussed in depth. It was fascinating and eye-opening to be taught by professors who had lived through the very history they were lecturing on. Additionally, I was able to take a service learning course on health and community development. As part of the course I completed 60 hours of community service in public and private clinics and hospitals, homeless shelters and after-school programs. My classmates and I also completed a project in the township of Egoli where we raised money to host a community health day and repair the roof of the Egoli community center.
What was one thing you did abroad that you couldn’t have done in Cleveland?
So many things! I rafted down the Zambezi River, went on safari in Kruger and saw the Big 5, dove with Great White Sharks in Shark Alley, swam with African penguins, watched the sunset from the top of Table Mountain, visited the Apartheid Museum, biked past the homes of Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu, and ate the best game of my life. Needless to say...I did a lot.
What advice do you have for students who are considering study abroad?
My advice for students who are considering studying abroad would be to DO IT! I wouldn't trade my study abroad experience for anything and there is no cheaper or easier time to live abroad than when you are in college. While abroad I would recommend that students try to do something new every weekend so that they are not frantically trying to cross things off their bucket list at the end of their time abroad. I would also tell students to take lots of pictures not just of tourist spots but also of the little things that they pass by everyday (ex. a favorite coffee shop, study spot, or park bench). Those are the things that I miss the most.