After being asked this question about a hundred times you’d think I’d have gotten better at answering it. However, I keep finding myself stuck trying to find middle ground between describing every detail of my study abroad and barely stating ‘it was good.’ Hopefully, this last blog post will help begin to figure that process out.
My time in South Africa was probably one of my largest areas of personal growth so far. I discovered a lot about the country I was in, and I discovered a lot about myself. I also grew academically, completing a lot of work in my future public health field and undergoing education that was (at less to some degree) less U.S and euro centric. I will carry this growth throughout the rest of my education and future work.
I set out concrete goals for myself after I arrived in South Africa. Four months is both a long time and a very short time. This was my first time outside of the U.S. and I intended to make the most it. First of all, I wanted to see as many new places as I could while outside of the U.S. I spent most of my time in Cape Town, but I also traveled to Johannesburg and parts of Zimbabwe and Botswana. Second, I wanted to learn as much as I could about the history and political context of South Africa. There is always more to learn of course, but I think I got a decent grounding in the current South African politics and how they were shaped. I also learned far more than I ever could have expected, especially about decolonization with spheres of education and beyond. I remember my first South African Politics class where Dr. Lushaba spoke at length about how all forms of education, even those here in a non Western country, privilege the West and the forms of knowledge that go along with that. All my education in this class and outside of it continued through that lens. My task now is to find ways to bring these lessons home with me and make them meaningful within my education in the U.S.
The prospect of studying abroad was definitely a scary endeavor. Partially because of the usual jumble of nervous energy that always accompanies a major life adjustment. But it ended up being one of my most positive experiences and my best semester of college so far. I’m still working on how exactly to sum it up, but I think that is a start. Thank you for reading my blogs!
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<p>Hello! I'm a current junior at Grinnell College, studying sociology and planning to go into public health policy. Outside of classes, I stay busy by volunteering to help (and play with!) dogs at the local animal shelter and organizing around national issues with other on-campus student activists. This semester in Cape Town will be my first time out of the United Staes, and I'm beyond excited to see where it takes me.</p>