Published on August 3rd, 2013 | by Rachel Budke0
Carolyn’s Study Abroad Advice
Meet Carolyn. She was my resident assistant during my freshman year of college. She is such a fun person, and really helped me have a smooth transition into college life. Carolyn is very giving and always willing to offer someone help, no matter what it may be. Carolyn’s experience abroad was a little different than most – she was there with a service program that is a part of the school of Leadership Studies at K-State. You can read even more about Carolyn’s experience abroad on her blog.
Where do you currently live and what school do/did you attend?
I currently live in Shawnee, KS (my hometown), but call Manhattan, KS home the majority of the year. I will be a fifth year senior at Kansas State University this fall. Go ‘Cats!
Where did you study abroad and why did you choose to study there?
While I did travel abroad this past summer, I did not study while there. I went with a program called “International Service Teams”, which is housed out of the Leadership Studies Program at K-State. This program sends teams of students to different sites around the world to serve in various aspects. This past summer I traveled to Ocean View, South Africa with seven other students from K-State. Ocean View is a coloured township about 40 minutes south of Cape Town. The members of this community were displaced from their original houses during the apartheid era and moved to this location where they were segregated from the whites in the area. First off, I chose to apply for International Service Teams because I knew I wanted to travel abroad before I graduated. I had heard from various friends, peers, and faculty members that traveling abroad during my undergraduate career is a must. Because of my involvement and class schedule, it was going to be difficult for me to go for a semester long trip during the school year. That left me with the summer as my only option. Additionally, I knew that I wanted to travel abroad but not specifically study while I was there. Instead, I wanted to be out in the community, serving, and getting to know the people there. With this criteria in mind, I started looking at International Service Teams. When I was looking at preferencing the different sites, I had always had a heart for Africa, so that narrowed it down to Kenya or South Africa. The thing that I liked about the South Africa site was that our service could be individualized depending on my passions. The program we worked with in South Africa is called Volunteer Mzansi AFRIKA, and it places volunteers at different organizations in the community depending on their passions and interests. Since I’m an education major, I was placed in a primary school where I got to assist the teachers, work with students, and teach lesson plans. Additionally, I helped with tutoring three days a week at the local library and served at a holiday camp while the learners were on a school break. Finally, I chose South Africa also because I was interested by the culture and history of the country. Living there for an extended period would give me the opportunity to learn more by meeting the people of the community.
How long were you abroad?
Our team was gone for eight weeks, and was serving for seven weeks of that.
What was your favorite part about being abroad?
That’s a hard question, so I’m going to cheat and say a lot of things that I enjoyed about traveling abroad: living with a host family, learning more about the education system in another country, being loved on by all of the children in the community, getting to know the youth leaders we worked with at the holiday camp, bungee jumping off of the highest bungee bridge in the world, going on a safari, seeing the cell where Nelson Mandela was held captive for over 25 years, climbing Table Mountain, learning more about the apartheid era, and much, much more!
What was the easiest adjustment for you while abroad?
The easiest adjustment for me was the knowledge I already had about the community I was living in. During the fall of 2012, I took an African literature course where we studied the history and literature of South Africa for four weeks of the course. This curriculum helped me to learn and understand the apartheid era, as well as the current state of the country. So, when I arrived in country I don’t think I was as shocked by the culture or conditions I was living under because of that. Additionally, it gave me a starting place when talking with community members. South Africans are very open, so I knew what to ask them about in order to learn more about them and their country.
What was the most difficult adjustment?
The most difficult adjustment for me was having all of my comforts taken away so abruptly. They have baths instead of showers there. They don’t have a central heating system in any of their buildings or homes. Our home ate a lot of starches and meats, leaving us lacking nutrition in the realm of fruits and vegetables. Although I was traveling with a team, they aren’t the friends I am used to and closest with. Everything was all of a sudden very unfamiliar and uncomfortable. While it was difficult, it challenged me to grow and depend more on the Lord for fulfillment than things of this world. I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to be pushed outside my comfort zone because it is what pushed me to grow.
Do you have any embarrassing stories that you’d be willing to share?
My friend from K-State taught me a game that is a version of ‘truth or dare’. I lost one of the rounds and had to perform one of these dares while we were on top of Table Mountain, which overlooks the Atlantic Ocean. Obviously, it’s a HUGE body of water. So, I was dared to go up to a local and ask them if they knew what lake that body of water is. I went up to this random guy I saw and he tried to politely tell me, while trying to control not laughing at me, that it was an ocean. I thanked him and then went on my way. After I went over to my team members, I couldn’t help not cracking up and we ended up turning around to tell the guy and his friends that we weren’t serious. They were relieved, because they thought we were just a bunch of dumb Americans. No worries, we cleared things up! : )
If you could give one piece of advice for future study abroad students, what would that be?
First off, go! While you’re in college and have the freedom, travel internationally. Secondly, soak up everything you can while you’re there. Traveling internationally can be stressful, but try to relax and just enjoy being there. Try new experiences, go on adventures, and eat weird things. You never know if you’ll have the opportunity to go back!
If you have any additional questions for Carolyn, feel free to send her an email!