I’m officially going to South Africa! I will be spending July to November this year in Stellenbosch, South Africa with a study abroad program through my school.
Since I’ve been writing so many scholarship essays to help me pay for studying abroad, I’ve been thinking a lot about what I might learn and bring back with me from ZA (South Africa). I thought I would go ahead and share what I’m most excited about since this is my next upcoming adventure (besides our family roadtrip to NYC this week to get my study permit)!
It’s hard to imagine what this upcoming adventure might teach me without looking back at my other trips throughout the US and abroad. So… I’ve compiled a few photos so we can take a trip down memory lane and relive how these trips impacted me most.
First up: Paris, France.
This was quite the embarrassing stage for me because not only did I think this pink hat was wildly stylish, but I also thought it would be the coolest idea to purchase a pair of “heelys” so I could roll through the streets of Paris. Clearly this was my first time being immersed in a different culture. However touristy our trip may have been, this is where I believe my desire to travel to new places really began.
Next up: the many cross-country road trips I’ve enjoyed with my family.
Whether trekking to California or circling Lake Superior, I’ve learned that the journey is the destination. Some of the most impactful moments I’ve had on these trips have been when things haven’t gone as planned.
Like that one time our hippy-painted, 12-passenger van broke down in New Mexico with a student driver behind the wheel. But without that bump in the road, we would have completely missed discovering the Blue Hole—a 100-foot deep body of water that is one of the most popular destinations for Scuba divers in the US.
Lastly, my most recent trip: Iceland.
Besides being blown away by the magnificent landscape, what I enjoyed most about this trip was the community. I loved learning about the unique Icelandic culture from our AirBNB hosts, but in a country where puffins outnumber humans, I most enjoyed the camaraderie I built between the 15 other adventurers that went to Iceland with me. Because it was such a short amount of time we learned how to squeeze the most out of every moment. On the car rides back to our AirBNB’s we would debrief about our favorite moments of that day, which I would journal before bed each night.
Although all of these experiences have been impactful, none of them have been long enough or out of my comfort zone enough to really change the way I see the world. Spending my whole life thus far in one culture can tempt me to believe that this is the right way to live, the only way to live, or the best way to live. When in fact my culture is one of thousands that all have found their own way of answering the same questions.
I want to immerse myself in another culture so I can experience the beauty of learning another way of life. The Inuit language has 53 different words for 53 different types of snow. Studies have shown that Inuit men and women actually see snow differently than those who speak languages that only have a few words for snow, simply because of their native language and culture. This linguistic relativity is perhaps just a small example of how a cultural immersion can alter someone’s mind. By immersing yourself in the Inuit culture, perhaps you would begin to see 53 different types of snow like an Inuit does. And if that is possible, maybe by immersing myself in the South African culture I can begin to see like a South African, think like a South African, and dream like a South African. The mind is fluid but as such, can develop ruts very easily. I’m worried that by having spent my entire life in one culture I am at risk of creating a deeper and deeper rut that is harder and harder to change. So by opening up this new space in my mind from my experience in South Africa, I believe that I will learn how to love others with less judgment. I believe that I will be able to try new things with less fear. I believe that I will be able to approach problems with more possible solutions. When I return from this experience of a lifetime, I truly believe that I will be a different person, and so much better for it. But don’t worry, not too different of a person… I will still be sure to come on here and bore you with all of the new exciting things I’m learning. So please, stay tuned 🙂