With one month already under my belt, I feel that I have already learned so many things. Some things have smacked me right in the face and others have been learned more slowly.
Below are just a few things that I have learned and continue to learn:
Something I have realized since studying abroad is how much I rely on my phone. I rely on my phone to listen to music, watch Netflix, post on different social media platforms and to take pictures, among many other things. The saddening fact about technology is that we believe it keeps us connected, but I’ve learned that technology takes away from the genuine connections right in front of us. I came across this realization when I noticed the excitement that came on every time I ventured out with friends and there was a potential for free wifi at whatever cafe we were in at the moment. This hold that technology has on us can be intoxicating and I’m learning to free myself from this weight that pulls me down and to take in everything that is around me.
As cliché as it may sound (and trust me, I am very aware of how cliché it sounds), there are going to be people that aren’t going to like you. These people may have a specific reason for not liking you, and sometimes there is no reason… they just don’t like you. Having this desire inside me to please others and to have others always like me, is driven by my insecurities. Though it’s very hard, I’m learning that I don’t need others to validate myself and who I am. Being a Christian, I find comfort in the bible verse:
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well." - Psalm 139:14
It illustrates how extraordinary my God is and what He has done to give each of us life. He has made us each uniquely with different gifts and this is something that I try and remind myself of each and every day.
This ties into my next point:
To reiterate, we are each unique individuals with different strengths and weaknesses. You may be a good listener and excellent athlete, but the person next to you may be good at mathematics and talented at playing guitar. Each one of us brings something different to the table and we should never apologize for being ourselves. As previously mentioned, there will be people who don’t like you and if you’re staying true to yourself then it’s not something that you should burden yourself with. Find a crowd that you click with and that encourages and lifts you up, never settle for people who tear you down for fear of not being accepted. “Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.”― Oscar Wilde.
Before coming on my trip, I was constantly told to say yes to everything, to have no regrets. However, I find this statement to be false. Saying yes to everything can lead to spreading yourself too thin and forgetting to prioritize important things like academics, self-care, etc. Therefore, I’ve learned that It’s okay to say no to going out on a Friday night, it’s okay to say no to hanging out with someone, and it is completely okay to say no to anything that makes you uncomfortable. If you need a day to stay in bed and watch Netflix or a need a day to recharge, there’s no shame in choosing to spend that time with yourself instead of with others. Or if you have an exam to study for, get on top of that. There will always be another party, another hike, another day to play with monkeys-- so do what you need to do to be successful and happy.
Being alone and doing things by yourself can get such a bad reputation, but I’ve learned that it can be fun to have a day to yourself or an activity that you regularly do alone. Whether it be going to lunch once a week alone or maybe going for a walk to the store alone, it’s great to find that one thing to do by yourself. For me, I have found going for runs, grocery shopping, and occasionally going out for a strawberry banana smoothie to be my “me time” when I can check in with myself or just take in the world around me. If I’m being honest, it has made a huge difference in my personal happiness. Back in the States (in my life back home), it’s always go-go-go and I forget to make time to just sit back and take in life.
Traveling numerous times before, I’ve never really experienced what homesickness is like. However, my time here has shown me that even I am not immune to the effects of homesickness. Whether you miss a person, an activity, or a certain aspect of your life that you left behind, homesickness can be so many different things to so many different people. For me, homesickness has had me missing the following things:
Another important point to hit, is that just because I may experience feelings of being homesick, that does not mean that I am not having the time of my life. I have enjoyed almost every second of this adventure and I can’t wait for what the next four months have in store for me.
In conclusion, my experience while studying abroad in Cape Town thus far has changed my perspective on many different aspects of my life and has shown me the beauty in the simple things.