Hi there! I got back from my trip to South Africa last week and let me tell you, jet lag is too real. So, while I decompress, go through all of my pictures, and get caught up on sleep, let me go through my study abroad experience real quick.
When I first enrolled at UNF I was given a lecture about how you need to study abroad, how it’ll enrich your life blah, blah, blah. I could give you the same lecture but it hasn’t worked before and it definitely didn’t work on me. Starting at UNF I was an economics major, when you’re an econ major you are required, by the university, to partake in a study abroad program. I’d heard the lectures, I’d talked to the counselors, study abroad wasn’t for me. So I switched my major to marketing.
I took one marketing class and instantly fell out of love with business. Economics is where it’s at for me, so I switched back and resigned myself to the fact that I would have to pay an exorbitant amount of money to go to a foreign country I didn’t want to go to.
Flashback to Spring 2016, I took business statistics with Dr. Harriet Stranahan. Dr. Stranahan has since become my favorite professor here at UNF. While in business stat she talked to us about a study abroad trip she wanted to take to South Africa, she showed us a brochure and to be completely honest, I ignored it. I had several professors pushing their own trips and I still didn’t want to accept that I was going to have to go.
I took another class with Dr. Stranahan in Fall 2016 where again she talked about the trip to South Africa. One of my peers, who I’ve known for quite some time, was talking about doing the trip with her. By that point I had started saving money to go on the trip and I didn’t really care where I went. We agreed to sign up to go to South Africa and crossed our fingers we would both get to go.
- Study abroad trips are pricey. But then again, college is pricey. I wasn’t opposed to taking out more loans to help pay for this experience (reminder : I didn’t have a choice if I want to graduate). Some of my peers had their parents pay for the trip, some of them split the cost with their parents, some of them babysat for months. Yes, it’s going to be expensive.
- It’s awesome to go with someone you know. I knew at least one person going on the trip and we had class time before the trip so I got to know a few other people pretty closely.
- Figure out how homesick you’ll get. Are you the kind of person who gets homesick after a few days of traveling? I’m definitely that person so the eleven day study abroad was just pushing my limits of homesickness. If you’re the kind of person who wants to be gone all the time then do a four month long study abroad and make another country your home!
- The drinking age in most other countries is 18. This means that if you’re not 21 yet, you’ll probably be able to drink on your study abroad. But, safety first, always travel in groups (while it sounds sexist you should always have a guy in your group, three drunken, college-age girls are kind of a prime target) and make sure you know the name of your hotel or have it written down.
- Wifi in other countries is spotty at best. Please, do not be the person who gets in another country and starts crying about how you can’t watch YouTube or stream Netflix. Even if you can get wifi, it’s probably metered and you’re limited to a couple hundred MB a day.
- Socializing can be awkward, especially if you’re a weird person like me. I’m not into the bar scene, I don’t go out with a ton of friends and hit up the clubs (omg, even typing that felt wrong)… But it was actually really nice getting a little bit drunk and going out to an EDM club, it’s something I never would have experienced in the states and I wouldn’t change anything about that night.
- You’re going to experience new food. This was one of the biggest reasons I didn’t think I was going to be able to handle study abroad. I’m a really picky eater and I’m not very adventurous. I was lucky that South Africa is fairly Americanized so pretty much all of the food was doable (yes, there were a few meals where the only thing I could eat were fries).
- Pick a country you don’t want to visit in your adult life. Going to Europe is a goal of mine so I ruled out all of the European short-term study abroad programs. I know it seems counter intuitive but let me put it like this, you go out to a new restaurant. Nothing on the menu looks particularly great (it all sounds ‘interesting’) but there is the option of a burger. If you’re paying, you’re probably going to pick the safe burger. If someone else says they’ll pay, you might be more willing to branch out and try something new because even if you don’t like it, at least you didn’t pay for it. I picked South Africa because it is the only country that I don’t think I have ever considered traveling to. I mean, sure, safaris seem cool and all but I never thought I would go to Africa. So, even if I hated the trip, at least I only went because my degree required I go.
- Do not take a 17 hour flight lightly. We traveled for 28 hours to Africa and on the first half of our 17 hour flight I experienced delirium like I have never experienced in my life. It was like a mixture of claustrophobia, sleep-deprivation, dehydration, and anxiety. On the way back, I took some nyquil and passed out for the duration of that long flight, it was a much better experience. Try to get up a few times and walk around. Make sure you keep hydrated. Bring snacks so you have real food to eat.
- It is one-hundred percent worth it. The money, the sleep deprivation, the occasional skipping of meals, all worth it. Going to South Africa with nineteen of my peers was a once in a lifetime opportunity that I’m sure I’ll be talking about for years to come. I’m so happy I went and honestly, if I didn’t have Eduardo and the puppers, I’m sure I would be signing up for another one.
At the end of the day I know that I will never regret going on my study abroad trip. Look out for a few more blog posts about South Africa! Have you been on a study abroad? Have you been to South Africa? Let me know in the comments below!
Until next time! Xx