Program and Location:
Spring, Stellenbosch University; Stellenbosch, South Africa
Why did you choose to study abroad?
I chose to study abroad for a couple of reasons. Primarily as a student who wants to work in International Health I was interested in spending extended time away from home in a place that faces some of the health challenges I was interested in. Secondarily, though I love Raleigh, I felt that I was becoming a little burned out with my college experience and thought that studying abroad was a way I could explore new opportunities.
What did you learn about yourself?
I learned that I am far more resilient and capable than I had anticipated. This might sound cliche but I was unaware of what I could handle until I was asked to handle new situations. My time in South Africa gave me the opportunity to meet great new people and traverse life with them in a brand new environment that came with its own challenges. I am a pretty introverted person naturally so the initially the task of developing a new community and taking on the unknown without my close friends was daunting. However, after a few weeks in Stellenbosch, I really fell in love with my new place and from getting groceries to navigating international customs alone, I began to realize I was much more prepared for the real world than I thought!
What was one of your favorite parts of your program?
I fell in love with the outdoors again during my stay in South Africa. If you look at most of the photos I took whilst abroad they were on top of mountains or deep in the valleys around my campus and this was because I spent A LOT of time outside. Getting out of the city for awhile and spending time with some of my new best friends surrounded by natural beauty was absolutely one of the highlights of my time.
I also really enjoyed getting to meet and live with people from all over the globe. Stellenbosch University hosts a hundreds of international students each year and I had the pleasure of living in a flat with other students from across Europe. Getting to learn the things that make us different, and even better the things that make us the same, was an incredibly enriching part of my experience as well.
What advice do you have to future study abroad students?
I would advise future study abroad students to really take advantage of the strengths of their respective program and not to worry about the things that they might miss back home or the things that bother them about their new place. It can be easy to constantly be comparing your new experience to NC State but I don’t think this is very helpful for adjusting or conducive to an enriching experience. Fully diving in to the nuanced parts of your host city and nation without any preconceptions or expectations will allow you to extract every bit of enjoyment out that you can.
How were your classes abroad different than if you would have taken them at NC State? Did you take any field trips or do anything outside of the traditional classroom?
The classes that I took abroad were definitely different from those that I take at NC State because they gave less daily work and instead placed more emphasis on projects and papers. Though this did take some time to adjust to I found that this was really a huge benefit to my experience because it allowed me to spend time every day jumping into the culture of Stellenbosch and exploring with my friends.
Would you do it again?
100% absolutely, no doubt.