Bernadette Martinez

Bernadette is an Ambassador who studied abroad in South Africa
Major: Elementary Education

Why did you choose to study abroad and how did you decide on this program?

I chose to study abroad to give me an opportunity to step into another country's culture. I wanted the opportunity to take courses outside of my major and to learn from every day experiences. I chose South Africa because of the Service Learning aspect. I knew that volunteering at House of Resurrection was a once in a lifetime opportunity and I would not trade a day there for anywhere else.

Briefly describe a specific cultural experience you had on your trip that made a lasting impression.

My work at House of Resurrection is an experience that I will never forget. In the beginning of my work at House I remember being very cautious because I know that two-thirds of the children are infected with HIV|AIDS, but by the end of the experience that was the last thing on my mind. The children are so full of life and love it is impossible to not love them with your whole heart.

Describe your overall study abroad experience.

My experience abroad was unlike any other, I challenged myself to do things I thought I would never do. I jumped off of the World's Largest Bungee, went shark cage diving, and climbed a mountain (all things I had never considered doing). I also learned about the lasting affects of Apartheid that has left much of South Africa in poverty. I was able to see first hand what people and organizations are doing in order to empower the impoverished.

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?

My study abroad experience definitely helped me with my professional development. I want to be an elementary teacher for students learning English and my work at House of Resurrection provided me with first hand experience. At House I worked with children aged 1-5. Amongst all the children three different languages are spoken. The age gap and language barrier created a very challenging teaching environment, but also a very rewarding one.

What advice can you offer for CSB/SJU students who are considering or planning to study abroad?

When you arrive to your host country things might seem a little weird, but remember what is weird to you is normal to others. Take in what your host country has to offer and learn to embrace it. Despite these differences that you might think are weird in the beginning you are going to fall in love with your host country. No matter which program you chose you will leave a little bit of your heart.


Do you have questions about stuyding abroad in South Africa? Email Bernadette at