In August 2018, at the cusp of my senior year at Clarks Summit University, I had the once-in-a lifetime experience of studying abroad in Cape Town, South Africa, through CSU’s unique South Africa intercultural immersion program. I boarded an airplane with six of my peers and professor Peggy Wright and traveled farther than I ever thought I would have.
Day One: Challenging Life Change
The first day I was in South Africa was challenging—in the best way possible. It was a challenge physically, as I hiked through Silvermine National Park and up Elephant Eye Mountain; a challenge mentally as I was adjusting to sensory overload in this new culture and wondering what each new day would bring; and a challenge spiritually as our professor and South African guide, Dr. Darryl Meekins, posed us with faith-deepening questions and challenges.
I will never forget hiking through Silvermine. The scenery was a breathtaking paradise for me as a photographer. I will never forget the moment when we reached the foot of Elephant Eye Mountain after three-quarters of our journey. There was a sudden clearing that opened up to a never-ending sea of bright yellow flowers cascading into a deep valley that directed the eye to the foggy silhouette of South Africa’s most famous natural monument, Table Mountain. The warm late morning sun filtered onto the scene as that image filled our vision; the ocean expanded to our right; hills and valleys of the park stretched behind us, and the daunting trail that lead to the remainder of our hike promised drop-offs and physical exertion to the left.
From the top of that mountain, I felt as if I could see the whole world—as well as a clearer picture of myself and the reason I was there for that spectacular moment in time.
What I Did
The majority of my time spent abroad was spent experiencing. Very few days were spent indoors listening to lectures. We had class discussion in the passenger van as we drove to places like Khayelitsha Township, the largest and most notorious township for gangsterism in the country, to learn about gangsterism and the desolate circumstances that perpetuate the hopelessness of gang culture in the South African townships. We collaborated while traveling to a safari where we saw wild zebras, elephants, hippopotamus and more. We talked as we went down the road to go shark cage diving by Seal Island and on the ferry heading to Robben Island where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned with other perceived political threats during Apartheid.
This intercultural, academic experience is a unique program offered through CSU. It’s designed to be immersive and individually tailored to each student’s personal and educational goals. As a Communications-Writing major, I found myself a little out of my element among my peers who were mostly biology majors. However, as part of my cultural studies, I was able to research media censorship and the history of journalism in South Africa during and after the apartheid era. I learned concepts that challenged me to think outside of myself and how, by doing that, I will strengthen my interpersonal success as I work with people in the future. I also will take with me a greater understanding of the world and experiences that will serve me well as a storyteller.
Experiencing this with scientific minded people gave me a uniquely beneficial experience because I was able to see deeper into the design of the things I was observing. My classmates helped me to understand scientific terms and concepts that gave me an even greater appreciation for the aesthetic value of our subjects. Also, as a visual artist, I was able to study things like the different parts of a flower and research their function before translating its likeness to paper with my pen and watercolors. This left me more in awe of what I was seeing and capturing artistically than ever before.
My time in South Africa taught me so much more than I can adequately portray here, but I am convinced that everyone should experience as much of this world as possible during their lifetime. Whether you are a college-aged student with the opportunity to study abroad (never pass that up) or you are an adult living the life God has given you, I implore you, dear reader, to GO. Go step outside of your personal context and experience this beautifully diverse world. Challenge yourself in this way, because you will only be better for it.
To learn more about Clarks Summit University’s South Africa study abroad Program, please visit https://www.clarkssummitu.edu/undergraduate-academics/more-academic-resources/south-africa-experience/. I’ll personally affirm, you won’t regret it.
—Jessica Eddy, senior in CSU’s Communications-writing program