Ashley Johnson hikes to the top of Lion's Head, a mountain in the middle of Cape Town
Overseas Study Program
Cape Town, South Africa
Major: Communications and Culture
Year/ Term Abroad: Spring 2011
Reason I chose to study in Cape Town: because I wanted to go somewhere different. I wanted to do something on my own, and gain my independence.
Biggest Surprise: On my birthday (which was early in the semester and I was still feeling slightly homesick) my housemates and friends surprised me with flowers, food, and a party, and we went to the top of Signal Hill to watch the sunset over the city, ocean, and mountains and drink wine. It was on this day that I knew that I would make friends that would last me a lifetime.
Culture Shock/Reverse culture Shock: Certain aspects of South African culture were hard to get used to like the cars driving on the opposite side of the road than in America, and adjusting to the currency and accents as well. Although some aspects of arriving in South Africa were difficult at first, nothing compared to the reverse culture shock. When I came home to the US, I was so sad. I missed my friends and the place where I had spent so much time growing as a person. It was weird not being with these people, driving on the other side of the road, and trying to understand peoples’ American accents. It took a few months where I was very sad (and I still miss Cape Town everyday!) but now I feel better and focus my time on figuring out a way to go back to Cape Town next year!
If I could do it over, I would…: 100% stay for an academic year in Cape Town. Although it would be a different experience because the same people on my program would not be there, it would be just as amazing of a time. The South African way of life is so relaxed and refreshing compared to constant American competitiveness.
What I know now that I didn’t know before going abroad: I know how important it is to be aware of issues around the world. I wasn’t aware of certain aspects of South Africa’s history or politics before I studied there. Now, I realize the importance of cultural awareness and it is a skill I will have with me for the rest of my life.
Greatest Challenge: I was super homesick at first. Before I went abroad I depended on my mom for a lot. Being abroad gave me a chance to learn that I needed to do things on my own. Although I was homesick the first week, I learned that I needed to adjust and take advantage of this opportunity.
Going abroad vs. Staying on campus: Go abroad!!! It is a once in a lifetime opportunity. You will probably never again have the chance to live in a foreign country as a student. Being a student studying abroad offers you the perfect combination of freedom and independence, but not too much responsibility. Your semester abroad will end up being your favorite semester in college!