I’ve been back in the USA for two days now. The jet lag is ferocious, but I am glad to be home. It was bittersweet leaving a place that has become so close to my heart. The sensations I felt seeing my loved ones was so strong, but so are the feelings for those that I left behind. I grew so close to my host family over the last four months. I spent the whole time in Africa putting off saying goodbye until the last possible chance, and it just happened so quickly that it feels like it was ripped away. But I don’t think I would change anything if I could go back. I got to write letters to people in Africa that I cared about and that was very special for me to give after they had given me so much. I know I can not repay the kindness that was bestowed on me, but it has made me want to be a better person after seeing such love and generosity.
When I first flew into the USA it was so comforting to hear a Southern accent. Being back on my home turf I felt confident, and even more aware of my surroundings. When I entered South Africa for the first time, I had to take in excessive information because of language barriers and unfamiliar names, places, and people. I have experienced slight culture shock as I’ve been back. Being in a third world country for four months made me realize that we are very fortunate to have certain privileges in the US, but I also feel that we take them for granted. America is only representative of a fraction of the world, and I learned a lot from seeing that there are so many other cultures and ways of life. I observed wild life and nature and it was fascinating to compare differences between the US and South Africa. It is my goal to remember all the things I have experienced, and to never forget who I am and how this adventure has shaped my life. Some of the characteristics that this trip has instilled within me is responsibility for my wellbeing, organization of my curriculum , boldness in my pursuits, confidence in my craft, and solidification of my beliefs.
Some tips that I would provide to those who are considering studying abroad or are in the process; Make sure you apply for a visa and allocate enough time for your trip. I ended up extending my trip one week, and I didn’t have enough days on my visa. Go ahead and put more that what you need just in case something comes up. It is better to be safe. I regret not taking a professional camera. I did have a friend that had a camera, but there were so many times when I wanted to capture a moment myself. I would also suggest taking an old, cheap phone and using it while abroad. Get a SIM card once you get to the country you are going to, and it will help immensely. If I could go back and redo something it would be packing less. I packed entirely too much and I had to ship about 100 lb. of items back to the US. I thought I was going to need a bunch of clothes and supplies, but I ended up purchasing some clothes and supplies that I could’ve used in its place. I think it is imperative to check two suitcases, but I would pack them about half full each so that you can bring back wonderful souvenirs.