I was selected to study abroad during the fall of my sophomore year. It’s now spring semester of my junior year and I’m finally getting ready to go to Israel. I mean, South Africa. No, I don’t think the two countries are that similar; however, until just a few months ago I was getting ready to spend a semester in Israel.
Israel feels like a second home to me. I grew up in a Jewish household and learned Hebrew until I graduated high school. In fact, my sister lives in Jerusalem along with several members of my extended family. I figured that spending a semester in Israel would allow me to become better connected with the country, culture, and people. Since I have already been to Israel twice, I am confident that I would feel comfortable living as an Israeli student. While I still believe that is true, I realized last September that I wanted something else out of my study abroad experience. I didn’t want to be surrounded by the familiar. I didn’t want to be with people I know. I didn’t want to be comfortable. As soon as the University of Cape Town was introduced as an option for study abroad I contacted the program director at my college and asked to change locations.
South Africa. To be honest, all I could picture were lions, Great White sharks, and Nelson Mandela, but I knew there was so much more. As I began to research this foreign land, I learned about a nation that is more diverse than America’s own “melting pot.” With 11 official languages, countless plant and animal species, and geographical features ranging from mountains to deserts, South Africa is truly a unique country. Moreover, the people of South Africa have endured a tumultuous history. After being colonized by both the Dutch and the British, the people of South Africa entered independence under the segregation regime known as Apartheid. Even though this regime has been overthrown, the county is still plagued by racial inequality and vast socioeconomic disparity. While these seem like problems that could only plague an undeveloped country, they are, in fact, problems that persist in America as well. Therefore, my semester abroad at the University of Cape Town will be more than just an opportunity to immerse myself in a foreign culture and have completely new experiences. Rather, it will also be an opportunity to learn from one country and apply the lessons learned to other countries, specifically the United States.
Although I am confident I would have had an incredible experience studying abroad in Israel, as I begin to pack my bags for the coming semester I have never been more confident in my decision to study in Cape Town, South Africa.
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<p>Hi, my name is Jeremy and I am a Midshipman at the United States Naval Academy. Outside of studying engineering and Arabic, I spend most of my time training for ultra-races, hiking in any park nearby, and going out with friends. I love experiencing anything new: food, language, music, etc. Find me in any local market, square, or club trying to figure out how the locals live.</p>