So Long South Africa

The program ended two weeks ago, but the experiences will be with me forever. I truly could not have asked for a better program, professors, or classmates. From start to finish, I felt comfortable and connected with everyone even though I didn’t know anyone going into it. I also loved the itinerary of the trip. Johannesburg was a very historical place, so we had a full week of learning a lot of information from museums. Spending two days in Kruger National Park gave us the opportunity to see a lot of South African wildlife, but personally, I think I could stay in Kruger for months! With an area of 7,523 square miles, there was only so much we could see. Then, meeting with the nature conservationist students at Nelson Mandela University in George allowed us to compare and contrast our views versus theirs on certain topics. It made me realize that even in a different continent, the college students are basically the same as us. Of course, they have the stress of exams, drama, and issues. They also have similar goals and perspectives on life. Finally, the rest of our time was spent in Cape Town. This city had incredible hiking, beaches, restaurants, city life, and more. There was a beautiful view in any direction that you looked. Here we had our Monday to Friday morning History classes and sometimes afternoon field experiences for our Environmental Education for Social Change class. Some of the experiences included going to wetlands, meeting a local fashion designer, going to a restaurant in a township to learn about their food culture, and meeting with members of the Homeless Peoples Federation. All of the tours were unique and eye-opening. The locals we met had their own story of how they got to where they are now. All of them basically started with nothing, yet managed to restore wetlands, start a clothing line, open a restaurant, build houses for homeless individuals, and more. The people we met are so motivated; they have the driving force and hustle to keep going until they get to where they want to be.

Through the museums, classes, and field experiences, I learned about a culture which I had no previous knowledge of. Learning about the South African culture and getting to know locals is what made me grow the most as a person during this program. Everyone was so friendly and welcoming; they even invited all 15 of us into their homes. Because of these individuals, I aspire to welcome more people into my life. I want to look at my surroundings with fresh eyes and not be judgmental of people by what they look like on the outside. This is something that I will especially bring with me to Pitt Business. It is so important to get to know as many people as possible and have good relationships with everyone. Academically, we learned how important social change is for a better environment and ways that we often get social change wrong. I am excited to bring and hopefully drive some social change principles to Pitt in order to create a happier, healthier world. I would love to bring similar changes to my personal and professional lives, as well. I also accomplished my professional goal of becoming a better communicator for my future career. As I mentioned in a previous blog, there was a slight language barrier at times. It was important for us to pay attention to what locals were saying so we could learn their lingo. The other professional goal I completed was learning to stay on task and balance work time and free time accordingly.

Overall, this study abroad program could not have been any better. It is everything I imagined and more! I am so sad it’s over; I already want to go back. I’m so thankful for this opportunity that I had, and I can’t wait to carry on all of my new experiences and knowledge to Pitt Business this Fall semester!