As my trip comes to a close, I had many moments of reflection on what I was able to experience in the short five weeks of time that I was in South Africa. Though I was given some incredible advice by students who have gone on Pitt in South Africa before, I’d like to use this post to give my own advice to future students within the program. So, let’s get to it!
First off, to a student who may be on the edge of whether or not they’d like to participate in study abroad: do it. I understand this decision may not come as easy for some as it does for others, whether that may be due to finances, fear of travel, or fear of being homesick—if the decision can be made to go, it will absolutely be one of the best decisions you will ever make. Being able to experience the culture, food, and history of a place unknown will give you a new outlook on what it means to be a global citizen, and you will have the time of your life along the way.
Okay, so now you’re here. You’ve landed in Johannesburg and you are a little anxious about what the next few weeks will entail. Don’t be nervous to meet the other students on your trip. You’ll quickly realize that they too have similar interests as you, the first being the country you all chose to study abroad in—and you picked the best, South Africa. Grab a bite to eat together at one of the many restaurants Joburg has to offer and discuss what everyone’s plans are for the next five weeks. Find a time to schedule those trips, excursions, and events throughout your time studying abroad because you will find that the five weeks end much quicker than you expected. Time flies when you’re having fun!
Studying abroad isn’t all fun and games though—you will need to go to class too. My advice is to take class abroad as seriously as you can, because being able to leave the classroom and then experience what you have just learned in the place you’re visiting is more rewarding than almost any other academic experience you’ll have. You’ll find yourself wanting to ask more questions as well as wanting to experience more museums and monuments if you really allow yourself to learn about the history and politics of the country you’re staying in. It’s truly fascinating. Take full advantage of it while you can.
Lastly, and going off of the last paragraph, do not take any day for granted. If you wake up one morning and it’s raining, go to a museum or go to the aviary. If you find one day to be unusually hot, use that as a relaxing beach day. I’d recommend Clifton Beach Number 4. If you’re tired, do not nap! You are only in this beautiful country for a short time and you will regret not spending that extra time wisely. Sometimes the best things are free. I found some of my best memories in the moments when I was sitting and talking with a local, walking the coastline, or hiking the mountains. You will be surprised by some of the memories you’ll keep from some of the most basic things while abroad.
To close, visit with an open mind. Allow yourself to experience new things that you may not have the opportunity to do back home, meet and ask questions to the locals around you, and of course, have fun.