It’s been a while since I left Cape Town and returned to the U.S. and I’m still adjusting to life back in the Midwest. There’s no more weekend hiking up mountains or eating way too much food at the different markets. What there has been, however, is lots of time for reflection. After four months abroad, it has been difficult to express exactly what my experience was like to my friends and family when they ask the inevitable, “How was South Africa?” It doesn’t seem like there is anywhere to begin. So much happened while I was abroad that my mind just jumps from one thing to another, not knowing what to say. How does someone sum up four months of experiences and memories into words?
I am still searching for the best way to talk about my time abroad and still sifting through the most important and influential experiences I had. Being in a new country, surrounded by completely new people, forced me to step outside of my comfort zone in more ways than I anticipated. At the start it was an isolating experience and I had to find ways to break down barriers and build relationships. But after a couple of weeks I was able to find my place in Cape Town and focus on making my time there count. I was able to learn so much while abroad, not just in the classroom, but through immersing myself in the culture, meeting new people, and participating in service learning.
Seeing how things are halfway across the world gave me a new perspective, one that I hope I will continue to view things through. The exposure to the corruption South Africa faces, the poverty that is overwhelmingly present, and the aftermath of Apartheid showed me the brokenness that there is in South Africa. But, the people I met, the culture I lived in, and learning about how they have and are overcoming their history showed me the hope and restoration there is. I learned that in times and places where brokenness is so prevalent, it is important to focus on the progress that has been made and the hope that will allow for more progress to follow.
Along with learning a lot, I also grew as a person, becoming more independent and open minded throughout my time abroad. I was able to broaden my perspectives and open myself to new ideas through being put in unfamiliar situations and being surrounded by new people everywhere I went. I am grateful that I was given this opportunity to grow and learn in a unique way and in such a special place.
I miss the view of the mountain on my walk up to campus. I miss the way the people of Cape Town made me feel at home. I miss the hustle and bustle of the Saturday food markets. I miss learning about such a rich culture inside and outside of the classroom. I miss the new friends I made through IES and UCT. I miss having a new adventure every weekend. There’s a lot to miss, but it is also good to be home. I’m excited to be home so that I can implement what I learned during my time abroad to my life and my studies here, so that I can share my experiences with those around me. And I guess missing Cape Town so much just means I’ll have to go back 🙂