Reflecting on my time in South Africa: A Changed Person – A Changed Perspective

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Almost five months.  I lived in South Africa for almost 5 months. I could hardly imagine so much fun and pain, so many learned lessons  and new perspectives, so many breathtaking and tragic sights all could be crammed into a mere 150 days. Yet I experienced all that and more. The John Luke that stepped onto the South Africa soil on the 2nd of July is drastically different from the John Luke that stepped into O’Hare International Airport on the 23rd of November.

As my time in South Africa has come to a close, I have taken some time to reflect on what lessons impacted me in the now and will continue to impact me for the rest of my life.

My change in South Africa can best be described as becoming woke

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Woke is a millennial term that urban dictionary defines as the state of “being aware” or “knowing what’s going on in the community.” This typically describes people “waking up” to issues of race or social justice. In South Africa, my woke  process began as I came to understand society in a whole new light, see injustice in the day to day, and understand my place in it all.

University of Cape Town offered one of the most transformative classes I have ever taken: Race, Class, Gender, and Sexuality. In this sociology class, I learned that society is set up in a way which gives a person who fits into a certain mold the most power while those that do no fit the mold are left in the margins. When there is power, there is often oppression, and those that feel that pang of oppression are those that are in the margins. A lot of that is just words, so who holds the most power? Who fits in the mold in which society’s structures give the most power? In reference to race, class, gender, and sexuality the mold typically holds the white, middle to upper class, heterosexual, masculine male. And everyone outside of that – Blacks, Native Americans, Asian-Americans, Hispanics, low class citizens, women, Non-binary persons, disabled, queer individuals – are all people who will feel that pang of oppression.

These are all concepts that I had maybe seen before or heard others talk about, but I never before really had to think about them. My rural Indiana childhood home didn’t make me think about it. My friendly and welcoming West Michigan environment and college didn’t make me think about it.  My whole world, which I realized was predominately white, middle class, and heterosexual, didn’t make me think about it because truthfully, it didn’t affect me as a white male.

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Yet that unawareness was not possible while being in South Africa. The moment I arrived, I was surrounded by oppression as I saw the difference of extreme wealth and extreme poverty within a 10 mile radius (as seen in my first blog in SA). This wasn’t just poverty linked to class as I had seen many times in US cities, but a poverty that was so strongly tied to race. Due to South Africa’s history with apartheid and colonization, race and its association to poverty and oppression was very prevalent in my day to day interactions – from who held what positions to the opportunities of my fellow classmates to the beggars on the streets.  Apartheid had only been lifted about 20 years ago, so being in South Africa was like being in an environment that was the United States 20 years after the Jim Crow laws were abolished. Even though 79.2% of South Africa is made up of black Africans, while the rest are white, Indian, and other, the 8.9% of white South Africans hold the most power (2011 SA Census). As white supremacy and privilege screamed at me every day in all my interactions and conversations, it made me think about the world I lived in.

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I had to ask myself “who am I and what does my privilege mean?” I started to understand that due to my race, due to my class, due to my biological sex, due to my sexuality, due to my nationality of an American – I held extreme privilege in society. I reflected how I saw myself potentially abusing my privileged place of power and how even the simple little actions I did could be oppressive . For example, South Africa has this amazing place located in Woodstock called the Old Biscuit Mill which is essentially a farmer’s market on Saturdays that has the BEST food. Much talk and excitement had been built up about going to this must-do location while in Cape Town, yet the first thing noticed when I woke up one Saturday morning to check this adventure off of my list was how white (in terms of race) the Old Biscuit Mill was. And in understanding the location more, I realized, that though the Old Biscuit Mill was a nice family friendly Saturday morning outing, it was the work of gentrification, or the upscaling of a specific area that then causes the cost of living to increase in that area and pushes the poor residents, usually those of color, out of the neighborhood. The recently gentrified Woodstock essentially had a financial apartheid and again the white privileged people were the ones that benefited from it. When I was providing my business at this market, I felt like I was just feeding into the oppression and injustice. This simple thing that seemed so fun and like a must-do since I was in Cape Town was in reality, oppressive.

Through my awakening process, I also began to see how privilege is so wrapped up in the society that we are born into – both in terms of South Africa and the United States. I saw how things with good intentions behind it could be oppressive: domestics jobs, chivalry, or even Disney. Even though domestic work can provide income to someone of a lower class who needs the money, often the positions are filled with a person of color, and thus the job still feeds into the white supremacy system as lower class people of color are serving upper class whites. Though a man chivalrously opening a door for a woman is a nice gesture, it feeds into the age old concept that a women is too “weak” to do it herself, and must have a knight in shining armor open the door for her. Even if the intentions are just to be polite, due to the historical context, oppression is wrapped in it. Even with Disney, something that brings joy across the world, it wasn’t until 2009 that a black princess was represented. It wasn’t until 7 years ago that a black child even had the option of connecting with a princess that looked like them!

While my new understanding of society should have been liberating, it came with a heavy weight. A denseness labeled as white guilt, feeling upset about the societal oppression of the world and feeling guilty because, simply being born a white male, I held the most power in the system. This guilt also stemmed from times where I realized where I had been oppressive or still was. This is not an example I love to share, but about a month into my time in South Africa, I was getting off of the train and a black woman asked me a question. At that time, I was on high defense (because the train wasn’t the safest), and I found myself assuming that this person was another beggar and wanted money. So when she asked the question, I responded how I often had responded to beggars: In a sympathetic voice, “Sorry. I don’t have anything.” I didn’t even realize until later that this black woman just wanted to know how to get to the other side of the tracks. I was being oppressive in terms of class and race in this situation – not even giving my time to listen. I instantly felt terrible for what I had done, but it also made me realize my societal privilege that I still had to work on breaking down. For the first time ever, I felt uncomfortable in my own skin because of the meaning behind it, the meaning of “whiteness.” In my discomfort, I had to decide what to do  with this guilt – to either sit in it and be despaired  or have a change within myself and try to make a difference somehow.

IMG_5847.JPGAs I was sitting in this guilt, in a discussion with a black female friend, I asked her “What can I do?” And to that she said that I must continue to understand and break down my own privilege as well as be a voice in a place that she might not be listened too – in a place where she might just be seen as another stereotyped, angry, black woman. So that is what I am trying to do: to break down my own privilege and understand and learn the way society functions and the oppression and power within it. More than just learn, but to be willing to share what I have learned even if it may not always “keep the peace.” But to share, I must do so in a way that doesn’t just feed into more oppression as can be seen in with the White Savior Industrial Complex. So, that is why I am willing to not go to class during a time of protests because I think it’s an unjust action (full story here in my protest blog). That’s why more of my Facebook shares aren’t just funny dancing videos anymore but also movements like replacing Columbus Day with Indigenous Day.  That’s why I am more liberal, radical, and progressive. That’s why I am even writing this blog.

I am a changed person with a changed perspective. Why? Because of this awakening process. I could claim that I am woke, but even that is an abuse of my privilege because I still have so much more to learn and understand about the world around me, as I believe everyone does. I have changed. Never before did I have to even think that I was white and now the understanding img_7827of that is constantly on my mind. And it goes beyond just my race, but class, gender, sexuality, abilities, and more. A very wise person once said to me, “The greatest privilege is to be unaware of your privilege; to choose to be ignorant.” I was definitely that. So I ask you, “What is your privilege in society and what does that mean to you?” And with that understanding, “What needs to change?”

The greatest privilege is to be unaware of your privilege. It is up to you to make that change – to become a changed person, and thus a changed perspective.

Trauma

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I wrote my last blog about a month ago concerning the protests taking place at the University of Cape Town and other universities across South Africa. When I wrote that blog, I was in the second week of not having classes and UCT being shutdown. Now as I sit here in a cafe writing, I have not had face to face lectures for approximately a month and a half.

And a lot has happened in that month’s time:

  • UCT management tried to restart classes without reaching any real resolution causing more protests.
  • Private security was brought onto campus making numerous students feel unsafe.
  • Violence broke out in the night and the concept of “black lives as disposable” was only strengthened in the actions of the night.
  • UCT shut down again and tried to make some effort in reaching a resolution, but came to no solution.
  • UCT declared that the year would finish but all face to face lectures were suspended and the year would be finished through a blended learning system – meaning that exams were approaching fast and assignments were due online.
  • Students and workers still protested and on October 26th, they peacefully marched to Parliament in solidarity only to have police brutality cast upon them through stun grenades, rubber bullets, and manhandling.

Since the occurrence of these events, I have been through many different emotions and experiences – and if I were to write all of them, I would be writing a novel, but here are key pieces for me along this journey:

1) The first time UCT tried to open, I didn’t have classes on that Monday. Due to that, I decided to march with a section of the protesters in hopes to shut down the campus so that the issue would be addressed rather than ignored. This was an exhausting and humbling experience. Protesting is no easy thing especially as people passionately fought for justice while being ignored or threatened by the presence of the private security.750x500q70private-security-guards-stood-at-the-entrance After this day, UCT tried to have class once again – and that Tuesday I did have class, but I decided not to go due to the circumstances. I choose to email my professor and express that I could not pretend nothing was happening outside of my classroom window when private security was all over campus and students were protesting and standing up for justice. I chose not to go because deciding to partake in my classes felt like supporting the current injustice and furthermore living into the privilege of ignoring the problems of marginalized communities. Eventually as that week progressed, classes shut down for the rest of the week and then the next as well.

2) The second time UCT tried to open brought forth different emotions. At that point I had not had school for a month and though I filled that time with important conversations, quality time, and other learning moments – it was a long season in which I didn’t really know what my purpose was as it was no longer that of being a student. To add to that, when UCT reopened school for a second time – UCT took a tactic that demobilized the students. They cancelled all face to face lectures, moved the exam schedule back two weeks, and embarked on a learning system called “blended learning” that was different depending on the faculty, but essentially dealt with online learning. This system was clouded with so much injustice as it just perpetuated the education gap of rich vs poor that this protest is fighting against, because it is only the wealthy that  have access to wifi, computers, and things needed to do class online. More than that – at this point, it wasn’t a quality education – a month was being crammed into a two week time period and then came exams. The SRC, or the Student’s Representative Council (the student advocates in communication with management during this time) declared that school should shut down for the rest of the year and resume earlier in the next term and with that time off, it should be used to seek out a resolution. Though this isn’t what anyone wants, protesters included, it is what makes the most sense. UCT management retaliated by releasing the exam schedule to finish off this year. Therefore, my feelings were unsettled because I felt torn – at this point I had to choose between school and the cause – and I was demobilized and uneasy. In this state of mind, I had a conversation with my kitchen mate and she expressed that at this point it was important for me to remember my role. As an international student, I have immersed myself in the culture and chosen not to be ignorant about what was going around me as well as have taken part in it. Now, since I will be flying out soon, it is my time to do the work to get the credits that I came here for.

3) Most recently, on October 26th I joined a peaceful march to parliament. It was powerful tProcessed with VSCO with c1 preseto see and be a part of – I would look in front of me and behind me and see numerous people – students and workers alike. I would hear songs of apartheid freedom songs. We walked together in solidarity to show how so many people stood behind a free decolonized education. When we got to parliament, it became very chill and people stood, sat, and just relaxed outside of Parliament. During that time, a friend I was with became dehydrated and we left to get some water and get her health back up. We played a role of being one of the bodies marching and showing support for the movement and it felt 849x493q70groundup-uct-clashes-main-photogood as well as powerful to be a part of. Not even an hour after we left, violence broke out. And it wasn’t violence instigated from the protester’s side – but the police. The police threw a stun grenade into the group of protesters making fear and violence begin. Rubber bullets were shot, more stun grenades were released, people running were targeted, students were manhandled, and what was a peaceful and legal protest turned into a battle and crime scene.

Trauma. Pain. Anger. Sadness. Hope. Relief. Irritation. Uncertainty. Hurt. Fear. Faith. Empathy. Unbelief. Love. Hate. Shock. Restlessness. Paralyzed. Gratitude.

These are the emotions that are capturing my current state of being in all that has gone on. Emotions that root from how black bodies are seen as disposable and how people have been abused due to their race. Emotions from the journey of this academic semester and the looming uncertainty of how it will unfold as exams are very likely to be disrupted. Emotions from the injustice and being an ally in this fight for justice. Emotions that come from the fact that I fly out soon making this no longer my immediate issue. Emotions that come from missing some of my education, yet knowing that I have been experientially educated more than any other experience really could.  Emotions that come from the fight for free decolonized education in South Africa.

So with all of this – now I just don’t know. I just feel like I sit in my trauma and unrest of situation at hand.  I still believe in the  fight for decolonized free education, yet at the same time, am still trying to do my work in order to receive the credits that I came here for. To continue forth with schooling seems unjust, yet to not continue forward at this point also feels wrong…putting me in this state of trauma and unrest.


Processed with VSCO with f2 presetWhen someone studies abroad – there is no guarantee what their experience will look like. The only guarantee is that they will come back changed either drastically or even a small amount from the person they were when their journey began. I had no idea I would be caught up in this radical and progressive time and that those characteristics would rub off on me. I knew I would come back changed – and I have in so many ways.

Though the experiences I have gained through my study abroad placement are not ideal and have made this ending time uneasy in terms of my emotions as well as other’s emotions- they are all still important in this journey of self and worldly growth… and for that I am grateful – not that injustice exists, but the change it has birthed in me.

A Progressive Time – #FeesMustFall

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On Thursday, September 15th, I attended a mass meeting led by student and worker protesters declaring that they would be shutting the University of Cape Town down in order to protest some of the stated injustices occurring at UCT. And that they did. Since that Thursday meeting, I have not had classes and UCT has been shut down with the intention to reopen on the 3rd of October.

You may be asking what these protests are all about that are causing this disruption? …. Well, I am glad you asked.

These protests fall under the movement of Fees Must Fall or creating a decolonized, free, and equal opportunity for education. This is a national protest that is happening at universities throughout South Africa. Since race plays such a huge role in South Africa due to its history with apartheid and colonization, blackness is often associated with poverty as people of color create up the majority of the working class and those who cannot afford this higher level education. Therefore these protests have many demands, but essentially they deal with making a free education, worker rights, and just eliminated the racist or white supremacy concepts that exist in the secondary level institutions across South Africa.

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As these protests were all unfolding around me, my first thought and emotion was empowerment and inspiration. Never before in my life, have I seen a group of people come together in such solidarity to oppose regulations that were seen as unjust. More than that – history in the making was happening around me and I got to witness it and have the opportunity to take part in it somehow and someway. And with these emotions fueling my thinking – I was going to try join this protest and fight for justice. Then after someone challenged my impulsive jump to participate, I took a step back and had to ask the question, do I really support free education? It sounds like a good concept, but in reality, I saw a poor quality education because universities are organizations that make their money from tuition – and therefore just depending on this money to come from the government could likely result in an underfunded institution. I then had another “hold up” moment and questioned why this protests where shutting down the school when the issue was more of a government problem.

Through going to the mass meetings held by the protesters, talking to students of UCT, and doing some independent research – this is what I have come to understand. The zero fees policy, through funding by the government, is possible as other countries have implemented it. More than that, the South Africa government is allocating their money in ways that could be budgeted in a more constructive and positive way than how it is happening now – and thus a free education is seen as feasible.

As to the point of why the school is being shutdown, though it is blocking students who want to get their education, it is enabling students who want to protest without getting penalized. Because of that – when class was in session and the shutdownIMG_6580.jpg was happening, protesters were going classroom to classroom to interrupt it and shut the university down with the goal to have it reopen once their demands about fees and other rights  were heard and some action is taken. On top of that, this protest (Fees Must Fall) happened last school year and shut down the university for two weeks. The way the issue was resolved was the government agreeing to make a plan so that a free education would be put into place, but the government didn’t end up following through. Therefore, the protesters are going to the government but also the university, because UCT did not play their part in trying to make this change. UCT Management knew these protests were going to happen (most students I talked to since I have been here talked about protests being very likely), so UCT management, did not play their role either in trying to make the shift in their education system.

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Now as I am in this second week of having no school – I don’t view this as an extended vacation, but as a time to grow, understand, and learn.  The time that I am currently experiencing is a sensitive time with many unknowns. People don’t know if school will be closed another week or even to the extreme – shut down for the rest of the semester. This makes it a sensitive and conflicted time as students have many different levels of support and opposition to what is happening around us. So where do I stand in this sensitive and uncertain time?

I stand in solidarity.

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I back this protest because it is about justice, equality, and breaking down walls. There are demands that I don’t fully back and a desire for it to be done differently, but as I movement as a whole – I am in solidarity with my fellow students who seek out this justice. I am not at the forefront of the marches as that is not my place, but I am support of what’s going on around me.

It is important to state that I recognize my privilege as an abroad student in this situation as it is easier for me to be chill with what’s happening because I know even though my plans are changing, that no matter what, somehow my home university as well as the program I am abroad with will make sure that I get the credits that I came here to accomplish. That’s not really the privilege of a South African student. And that’s why this is a sensitive time because this protest is progressive in terms of the future, but it is also destructive for the now.

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When I choose to study abroad, I wasn’t choosing to board the plane to a 6 month vacation, but rather, I came here to learn and embrace culture to the fullest – so it is empowering to be a part of history and watch progress be fought for in a place where much progress needs to be had. As an American abroad student – this has nothing to do with me – but also is has everything to do with me. As a human in this unjust and oppressive world, I believe it is our duty to stand up for justice and that’s what is happening with these protests. I do wish that this movement could be done in a less destructive way, but in order to have the voice of the oppressed heard and listened to –this is one of the few “peaceful” options. So will I be extending my departure date? Will I be taking exams? Will I miss my favorite holiday of Thanksgiving? All these questions are unknown, but I am not worried with my issues because the issues we are dealing with is much bigger than me – it’s about justice and I stand for justice.

Mountains or Water?

Important question: Mountains or Water? Which one most fits you? Which region would you choose to live?

This is one of the random icebreakers questions I liked to ask. My response in the past has usually been water. There is something about the sweet blue crashing waves that just makes my heart swell with peace and contentment. That’s while living in Holland, Michigan – the beach just being a run away – has been great. With that said – I have always been on the line with the question because mountains embody such majestic beauty and adventures.

So what’s my answer now?

My answer is Cape Town. Not only does Cape Town have beautiful mountains that have created me with amble opportunities to hike, but is also has the beautiful blue waters of the Atlantic Ocean. So I choose both – I choose Cape Town.

Both these waters and these mountains have created many good adventures for me to hike, swim, and explore. Check out the photos below and Table Mountain Hike video here.

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South Africa is Developed and Developing…

“South Africa is a country that is developed and developing.”

This is something that my IES adviser, said during my first few days in Cape Town during my orientation – a time in which myself and other students learned more about Cape Town and South Africa.

On the first day of orientation we explored Sea Point in Cape Town. This is the area of the city that is butting up to Atlantic Ocean  and surrounded with breathtaking mountains, thus painting a picture of beauty and awe.

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It is also the “tourist” place of Cape Town. This is the location where billion dollar houses a built on the mountain overlooking the beautiful city. This is the place where Bill Clinton has his summer home. This is the place that all vacationer’s dream of getting to go – lined with palm trees, the ocean and mountains right beside them, and a vibrant and exciting city life.

I got to end this day with the best sunset I had ever seen on top of a mountain with other mountains surrounding me, the city below me, and the sun sinking into the ocean. This got to be my first real impression of Cape Town and my study abroad experience, and I already felt like I was falling in love with this new place I call home.

The next day of orientation had a very different feel to it. We went on a township tour of a place called Langa. Langa, and many other townships, are areas that reflect the poverty of South Africa. It was in Langa that I saw families living in shacks on less than a dollar a day. It was in Langa that I saw a room that was smaller than my room back home, yet housed 3 families. It was in Langa that I saw poverty like I never had before.

Yet it was in Langa that I saw such beauty and joy. It was in Langa that I saw an piece of Afrcian culture mixed with the Christian faith – the practice of circumcision of boys at 16 in order to  become men while at the same time seeing the praise and worship of Jesus Christ. It was in Langa that I saw art in the spaces they had. It was in Langa that I saw new beauties of culture that I hadn’t seen before.

My favorite part of Langa was a place where we had dinner called Mzansi Restaurant – a space that doubled as a restaurant and the home of a Langan family. It was here that we got to dance, sing, play music with, and hug some locals. It was a great cultural experience.

We also got to hear the story of Mama, the owner of the restaurant. She told of us how the space use to be half the size and how it was a special restaurant because they are only open for pre-scheduled guests. Due to that, the restaurant really had a very tough beginning to the point where the family could no longer support themselves. Yet, some students that once went to the restaurant offered to help and put Mzansi on “Trip Advisor” and it climbed to the number 1 for restaurants to go to while in Cape Town. Fast forwarding to the present, Mama and her family still struggle financially, but can sustain themselves. Not only that, they help those in the community by providing jobs for the musicians and tour leaders. During her story, Mama said something that brought tears to my eyes, “I am a millionaire, not because I have money to make me rich, but because I am rich in heart. I love what I am doing and have a family that I get to do it with.”

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“South Africa is developed and developing.” This is something that has been eye opening to me and makes me want to make a difference. I know I do not have the answers of what needs to be done in order for that difference to be made, but I know I can help through empowering those in these communities just as mama and the Mzansi  restaurant experienced. That is what I hope to have the chance to do through different opportunities that I am aligning myself with over the course of the semester.

The first day in Cape Town was making me fall in love with this place and the second day only increased those feelings, yet for a much different reason. South Africa is developed and developing and South Africa is continuously capturing my heart.

My Freshenior Year

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Last year, during the Hope College 201 5 Orientation, I helped move some incoming students into their residential halls, most of whom were freshmen.  As I interacted with students and “people-watched” from afar, I saw many typical “freshmen” occurrences. I saw the awkward interactions of students meeting their roommates for the first time. I saw the worry in one’s eyes as they tried to cram everything they brought into their new shared dorm room. I saw the confusion of students and families aimlessly roaming around campus looking for some unknown building all while trying to make it appear as though they knew where they were going. As I witnessed all of this, I chuckled to myself and thought, “Thank God that I will never have to go through all those awkward experiences again during my time at college.”

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Looks like the joke is on me.

Last Monday, the first week of classes began in a university that has a lower, middle, and upper campus. As I looked on my phone at the campus map trying to find classrooms in buildings that  I had never even heard of before all while trying to walk around with confidence and appear to know where I was going, it hit me – I am a freshmen again. Here I am in a total new setting, experiencing college in way that I never have before, and hanging out with people that I have only just meet and am growing to know. I am starting again from scratch – I am a freshmen, or so that is how it feels.

But  at the same time, I am a senior. I have 3 year of a college education under my belt. More than that, the JL that started Hope College in the fall of 2013 is not the JL that flew to Cape Town, South Africa to study abroad. I have changed. I have changed a lot since my freshman year, and I believe that I have changed for the better.

When I first started my freshmen year, I had a period of time where I was lonely for more than half the year. I was surrounded by so many people that knew who I was, but I felt like no one really knew who I was. As I struggled to make connections, I realized that a big part of my loneliness came from the judgmental mindset that I had. In my interactions with people, I would determine if a person was “good friend material” based on the most insignificant actions and/or personality traits. In this mindset, I wasn’t able to make friends because no one was able to qualify for my friend standards.

Yet I have changed. I have changed and grown in my intelligence, in my love and treatment of others, in my perspectives and worldview, my maturity, open-mindedness, in understanding who I am and being confident in that, and even the length of my hair.I have changed to the point where my junior year, people gave me the highest compliment I have ever received as calling me someone who is nonjudgmental.

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So I am happy. I am happy to be thrust back into the world of “unknowns” being the person that I am today rather than the person I once was. Everything is new and I am starting off fresh  – I have the chance to start again. Yet I have that chance to begin again in the version of myself that I have grown into since my freshman year. I am a senior even in this freshness. So to my freshenior year, a year of new joys, challenges, perspectives, places, adventures, and opportunities. To my freshenior year!

 

The Start of Something New

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And just like that my summer has come to end and I am off to be a student in another country with a semester that is currently overcast with many unknowns.

Since the moment when I gave my sister the bittersweet and final wave before going through security at O’Hare International airport, my emotions have been anything but stagnant. They have fluctuated from the heart beating moment of boarding the plane and realizing this was 100% actually happening, to the joy I felt when I saw the movie selection as well as when the airplane meal was brought out, to the regrets of eating the creamy mash potatoes even though my lactose intolerant body warned me not to, to the now serenity of just sitting here and waiting at the Dubai international airport to board my plane to Cape Town, South Africa.

As I sit in this wi-fi-less airport, I am finally given the much needed time to write of the reflections that accompany the adventure I am embarking on before I really get to the heart of it. With this new chapter in my life, I have a few expectations and hopes.

I expect to learn a lot. I hope to learn about myself, the culture, and the possibility of working at an international level.

I expect to find a community at some point in my time in Cape Town. I hope that it is soon, because even though I am someone who knows first hand that loneliness can be really beneficial for me, I am also a 30/30 extrovert (Myers-Briggs guaranteed) and want to find those people to call my home away from home.

I expect to see amazing sights and go on many fun adventures. I hope to have the time and people to feed my adventure side (and I hope to not get eaten by a shark).

I expect that this chapter in life will change me drastically. I hope that change turns into growth of myself on a spiritual, cultural, intellectual, professional, and personal level.

All in all, these hopes and expectations are scary because I have no control in how they will play out. I can choose the person I want to be or even some of the things I get involved in, but I can’t control or plan the results. Heck I barely understand how I am getting the food that I am cooking for myself, how to get to the classes I am taking (plus what those classes are), or just my situation as a whole – and as a type-A planner personality, that is a scary thing.

With that said, one reason that pushed me to study abroad for my fall semester of my senior year (even though I adamantly declared as a freshman that I never would study abroad due to FOMO [fear of missing out]) was the fact that I had planned so much of my junior/senior year and had such expectations – yet when it came down to it, my junior year was overshadowed with disappointment and plans crumbling apart (not to say the wasn’t a lot of good in it too).

So here’s to a new start, with many unknowns and situations/factors I can’t account for – here’s to the next chapter that I am nervous for, yet even more so, I am excited for as well. Cheers to new beginnings!