After being back in the United States for a while, I have been able to reflect on my time in South Africa. I absolutely do not regret studying abroad; in fact, I am so proud of myself for doing so. I realize more and more every day that studying abroad while in college is a once in a lifetime opportunity.
Studying abroad in Cape Town was necessary. It allowed for me to grow and mature in certain areas of my life in such a short period of time. It was also amazing to get a break from home. With everything going on in the United States, from immoral laws being implemented nationally to violence rates in my home town increasing daily, I will say that I was able to be at peace while abroad.
However, this does not mean I was not homesick. I missed my family and friends SO MUCH. I also missed quite a few important events. I missed my brother’s graduation. I also missed my close friend’s graduation. I missed my first Mother’s Day, which left me feeling some type of way. Me missing these events always made me question whether studying abroad was worth it. Yet, as stated earlier…I do not regret studying abroad. It was hard missing these events, but what made me feel better was the fact that my loved ones knew that I was rooting for them, all the way from Africa!
One of my favorite parts of studying abroad was volunteering. I wrote about this in an earlier blog post, but I had to volunteer at a nonprofit for a class that I was enrolled in (Community Development in Context, offered by IES). I ended up volunteering at a homeless shelter called the Night Haven (click here for more information).
I was able to meet some of the clients that stayed there, some of the staff that put their all into their roles, and I was even able to understand how to run a nonprofit from an administrative point of view. Volunteering at the Haven helped me become more grateful for where I am at life. Things might not be perfect (and they never will be); yet I am thankful for simple things such as having a roof over my head and even being able to afford food. Some people are unable to say that, and I met those people while volunteering.
Another favorite part of mine when it came to studying abroad was meeting new people. While Chicago is a large city quantitatively, after living there all my life, it becomes smaller and smaller every year. Everyone in Chicago knows everyone, whether directly or indirectly. That being said…it felt great to be the new girl. It felt great to be the one introduced to others.
Lastly, I overall enjoyed being able to participate in a new culture. Although Cape Town reminded me of the States, I was still able to meet people from across the globe, try new cuisines, learn new dances, and even learn a bit of new lingo.
For those thinking about studying abroad – don’t think about it, just DO it! I promise, it’ll change your life!