Emily Eckhoff

Emily is an Ambassador who studied abroad in South Africa
Major: Nutrition

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

As cliché as it sounds, study abroad was the chance of a life time. It was the opportunity to challenge myself, obtain a global perspective, and create lifelong connections with a fabulous new group of Bennies and Johnnies. Since freshman year, I was drawn to the South Africa program. The service learning aspect of this program was the main aspect of the trip that excited me. This offered the opportunity to make personal connections with local South Africans. It offered a lens into the culture and the complex society of South Africa. This trip focused on the opportunity to be a part of the Port Elizabeth community, rather than experiencing South Africa as a tourist.

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

I volunteered at the House of Resurrection, AIDS orphanage as a preschool teacher's assistant. I was privileged to have the opportunity to make deep relationships with the children, as well as the adult figures at House. Although I have been home for months, I think of these children every day. I will cherish these relationships for a lifetime. We were able to make an impact on the children, but the lessons they have taught me are immeasurable. In the midst of poverty, sickness and struggle, these people were able to embrace each day as a blessing. I desperately miss their warm embraces and inspirational outlook.

Describe your overall study abroad experience.

My study abroad experience in South Africa was life changing. I was continuously challenged academically, socially, and culturally. I grew to love the South African culture and people. I created relationships with locals as well as lasting friendships with my fellow CSB/SJU classmates. It was fascinating learning about South African history and applying it to your daily life abroad. The trip was full of adventures, which lead to an incredible semester.

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?

I am a notorious home body and studying abroad forced me out of my comfort zone. This was an essential experience to help me grow as a person. Today I stand more confident in my goals, morals and in the person I am than ever before. As a Nutrition major South Africa gave me an outlook on the extreme importance of nutrition. I was able to gain hands on experience with malnutrition at my service location. I have enjoyed applying the knowledge gained in South Africa to my life back in Minnesota.

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

Study abroad, for most individuals, will be a once in a life time opportunity to experience a foreign country as a member of the community, rather than as a tourist. Embrace every opportunity you have to connect with the local people and culture. You will grow to love it. Be open to challenges and adventure, you will only benefit from it.

Questions?

Do you have questions about studying abroad in South Africa, or want access to my blog? Email Emily at eaeckhoff@csbsju.edu