Ryan Longley is an Ambassador who studied abroad in South Africa
Why did you choose to study abroad and how did you decide on this program?
Entering my freshman year at CSBSJU I always knew that I wanted to study abroad. When choosing where to study abroad I wanted to go to a country that was far different from my own. I was eager to travel, to experience another culture, to challenge myself and to make lifetime connections with others. I value the power of volunteering and I love the opportunity for adventure so I wanted to study abroad in a country that fulfilled both. The South Africa program proved to be a perfect fit! Not only did the program offer the opportunity to live in a vibrant multicultural society and to experience the unique wildlife at your doorstep but it offered a chance to live in a first world meets third world country! What really drew me to the program was the service-learning component because I wanted to volunteer within the communities of South Africa and expand my global awareness far beyond what any classroom could offer.
Briefly describe a specific cultural experience you had on your trip that made a lasting impression.
An experience that I will carry with me forever is when I had the opportunity to stay with a family in a township outside of Cape Town for two nights. I was nervous and excited because I knew this was something not very many people could say they have had the chance to do. My host siblings gave me a tour of the township where I saw hardship and struggle both remnants of Apartheid on every corner yet I witnessed happiness and progress in those who greeted us from their porches. Each night my host mama made traditional Xhosa dishes for dinner and we had hours upon hours of conversations about America and South Africa. My mama went out of her way to make sure I was comfortable such as making me breakfast each morning and filling a water bucket for me to wash my hair in granted she had to heat the water on her stove. The opportunity of staying two nights in a township was a gift in itself. I was able to experience a traditional Xhosa culture and home and connect with a South African family in a personal way. It also made me appreciate more of what I have back at home and be thankful for all the things I take for granted.
Describe your overall study abroad experience.
Amazing, breathtaking, and life changing! My experience in South Africa was the best four months of my life! Choosing to study abroad in South Africa was one of the best decisions I have ever made and now being back at CSBSJU I am STILL talking about it! Some highlights of my experience include learning the various cultures of South Africa (there are so many!), making connections with South Africans, volunteering at Missionvale Care Centre, riding an elephant, diving with the Great Whites, seeing the Big Five on a safari, touring Cape Town, climbing Table Mountain, taking in the Transkei sunset, living the history of South Africa, snorkeling with seals, taking risks like bungee jumping, kissing an ostrich, attending a NMMU rugby match, singing Shosholoza, staying in a township, driving the Wild Coast, studying marine biology, eating Xhosa food, experiencing TIA (time in Africa), and becoming a family with my group.
Based on your experiences abroad, what are some of the benefits of spending a semester abroad? How has studying abroad contributed to your personal, academic, and professional development?
There are countless benefits to spending a semester abroad but if I were to pick just four: gain a new perspective of the world especially your host country, make new contacts and form everlasting relationships, be challenged in ways that you thought were not possible, and develop a new sense of independence. Personally studying abroad in South Africa has shaped me into a more globally aware individual and I have gained a better appreciation for South Africa's culture as well as my own. South Africa definitely pushed me to new limits I thought I could never conquer for example living abroad for four months on my own. South Africa made me reflect on what I truly wanted to do in life and what path I currently was on. My service learning at Missionvale Care Centre left a huge impact on me and I wish to continue doing service work revolving around South Africa for life.
What advice can you offer for CSB/SJU students who are considering or planning to study abroad?
When selecting a study abroad program choose one that fits you and only you! Remember this is your chance to expand your horizons, to be pushed to your limits, to experience a corner of the world that is far different from the place you call home. Do not be the person who applies to the same study abroad program because your best friend is applying too! Also do not be afraid to try new things, go past your comfort zone, and let your walls come down. Take in everything you can because four months may seem long but my do they fly by! "This world is made out of sugar. It can crumble so easily, but don't be afraid to stick your tongue out and taste it!"