No experience I’ve had before July 29 could have prepared me for the journey I am embarking. The four months ahead of me will be filled with twists and turns that stretch far beyond my knowledge and understanding.
What would it be like to study abroad? The only access I had to former abroadies was at my home institution, Georgetown University. It is difficult to know how their time abroad was because of the social pressure that lies behind depicting an amazing, semester-long adventure. I’ve seen the razzle dazzle Facebook/Instagram posts and the picturesque landscapes captured on Snapchat. I don’t recall there being a night spent in or culture shock moment in sight.
To me, studying abroad seemed like a four-month vacation accompanied by a few courses at a foreign university. To me, studying abroad seemed like it would be a breeze. These views of mine, fortunately, shifted before I made the decision to apply to travel to Cape Town, South Africa.
How did those views change? I performed extensive research. I visited several websites and student blogs before stumbling upon Arcadia’s student blog network. It was there that I read entries from other students who traveled abroad. What I noticed firsthand was that the Arcadia student bloggers stripped away the store-bought shininess that popular social media websites wrap study abroad experiences in. Reading how people had trouble adjusting in their new homes and immersing themselves into the culture of their destinations was an eye-opener for me. I knew things would be different abroad, but I did not truly consider how complex the issues would be. That is why I decided to blog about my experience at the University of the Western Cape.
I’ve heard that a picture is worth a thousand words, but I feel like those words can be easily sculpted into something made-up. Studying abroad in South Africa won’t be all sunny skies and bikini pictures in Camps Bay, but all the moments in between will be worthwhile.