After my freshman year, I wanted the chance to explore the world and decided to earn some college credit at the same time. So, I decided to study at Stellenbosch University in South Africa for five weeks during the summer.
Upon arrival, the Stellenbosch staff pushed me to interact with different cultures by assigning roommates from other countries. My roommate was from Singapore, but I was soon surrounded by people from Venezuela, Singapore, China, Australia, Zimbabwe; all over Europe and of course, South Africa. This cross-cultural expansion was a dream come true!
In South African wine country, there were a lot of social events such as braai, a traditional barbecue and sokkie dancing. The friendships that accumulated were exhilarating not only because South African culture was being spread, but a miniature global summit was occurring.
While in the Western Cape, I took courses on South African Political History, Intercultural Communication and HIV in South Africa. Being a double major in biomedical science and globalization and international affairs, finding programs that would apply towards both majors was difficult, but Stellenbosch University offered a wide array of courses and specialty track programs to draw a mixture of individuals.
My HIV in South Africa class visited a low-income area and learn of the procedures and precautions of working in a high-risk medical position. As someone who hopes to practice medicine abroad, visiting a health clinic in a low-income area was a vital understanding of where my career might lead me.
We also had the chance to take a ferry to Robben Island to learn about the location where Nelson Mandela was held prisoner during apartheid. Our tour guide was a previous prisoner of the island and offered a unique experience to understand the turmoil and tension of the past.
In our political history class, we also watched “Skin” a movie displaying the life of Sandra Laing, a mixed-raced woman born to white Afrikan parents.
The hardest part about studying abroad was focusing on the academics. There was always a cultural activity happening or a group of people exploring the botanical gardens, doing karaoke, paragliding or driving to Cape Town.
During free time, many students were drawn to the local nature of the country through hiking Table Mountain, swimming with sharks, hugs with elephants, walking with penguins and even zip lining across a waterfall. The Western Cape offered a combination of beaches and mountains that are enough for any vacation dreamer.
One of the craziest things I did on my trip was sneaking onto the set of the sequel of The Kissing Booth since it was filmed on my host university. The crew had taken over our student center, the Neelsie, and transformed it into a production area. We sat with the extras at the bottom of the student center and looked up at Joey King and Joel Courtney in make-up. Some of my friends even managed to be extras!
From a trip to Club Mykonos, whale watching in Hermanus, seeing where the Atlantic Ocean meets the Indian Ocean, exploring Tsitsikamma National Park, participating in the world highest bungy jump, meeting biting ostriches named Betsy and star gazing at Myoli Beach, the garden route tour of the Western Cape was a perfect final week in South Africa and made saying goodbye to such amazing friends nearly impossible.
While education abroad might seem too expensive, there are plenty of scholarships such as the Gilman Scholarship, Laura D. Kennamer, EKU Education Abroad Scholarships, Spin-the-Wheel and many other for specific majors. Without receiving some of these, I would have never been able to study abroad.
EKU has plenty of amazing programs that many students fail to utilize, and education abroad is one of them. South Africa was an amazing program and I’m excited to see where summer 2020 will take me as I plan to go abroad again.
Studying abroad is a special experience because you never know where it’ll take you and who you will meet. While it seems frightening, this type of living offers the best type of reward.