My Understanding of Being Abroad

Tatiana Redden University of Cape Town, South Africa


September 10, 2015

Last week I stumbled upon a quote by William Shakespeare, “Expectation is the root of all heartache.” Hence this week, I have spent some time thinking and reflecting on my experience. In the sense of how I view it, what others have asked, how they view, what others make me think about, and vice versa.

Since I have been asked numerous questions. . . Most being ridiculous, unanswerable, or stereotypical. The most popular one seems to be about animals, for some odd reason. Have I seen any and what kind? Are they close by? Or advice about not touching the animals all together. I once told my friend we saw Zebras getting off the plane. He believed me too!

Also since being here I’ve had friends, family, and etc. ask, “How is Africa?” so nonchalantly. I keep saying I cannot answer that because I am in South Africa. So many find it hard to understand that Africa is not a country, it’s a huge continent. I live in one part that can be completely different from other parts. That’s one of the huge matters I’ve been having to deal with and understand myself.

“Have you adjusted yet?” Well now that’s the winner! I am asked from multiple people almost every week this question. Now of course, I don’t mind ANY of the questions. Most times they make me laugh or reflect. Yet sometimes, it made me think that I had expectations to uphold. As if I was expected to adjust by a certain time, or to have friends, and go out every night, or love every second of being here. So therefore, if I did not do what others expected I felt like I was not living up to my fullest here in South Africa. I struggled my first few weeks being here, I was homesick every day. I keep comparing myself to others… She loves it here, why am I so sad? Now I have come to understand that is the worst thing you can do is compare your experience with someone else or feel the need to meet someone else’s expectations.

We are all human, we all experience things differently and that is okay. I realized that when people asked have I adjusted they assume there is a time limit. . . For me there is not. I have been in South Africa about two months and nope I have not fully adjusted. It could be my last day when it hits me. And yup, I still miss my family and friends. Yes, I miss my home. For me that is normal because it is MY process. My process is mine, and I cannot slow it down or speed it up to please someone else.

I decided to do this post because I know many people think they experience things alone and it seems hard. My first and second week I felt so alone and out of my comfort zone. Yet, when I realized there is always someone who feels the same. Also I began to understand that I determine and control what I experience here in South Africa, not others. And that’s okay.

Other questions I have been asked…

Do you live in a village? Have guys tried to talk to you? Do they have malls and restaurants? Do they think you are African? Did you get your shots before going? Did you catch Ebola? Do they speak English? Do you live with animals? Do they cook there? Do you live in huts? Do they have money? What do they think of Americans? Do they have weave there? How do they dress?


Semester South Africa