Still on the fence about study abroad? Get a $500 discount on Fall semester programs in Argentina, Spain, France or Belgium if you register here by Feb. 28, 2014!
The early bird gets the worm… and in this case.. the early applicant gets the discount!
5 months abroad can improve your language skills, allow you to see the world, and gain maturity and independence. Do something unique, something different, break out of the box.
As 15 year old Maria boarded her flight for South Africa, she had no idea she was headed to the ground floor of a significant historical event!
Maria from California chose to study abroad for 1 semester in South Africa with iE-USA.
Toward the end of her exchange semester, news of Nelson Mandela’s death rocked the world. Maria, now immersed in the South African culture, was able to see these events through the eyes of a South African.
Maria shares more in her own words:
What impacted you during your semester in South Africa with iE-USA?
It’s hard to list just one thing, because I’m so thankful for the experience in general. The townships were like nothing I had seen before. There are squatter camps, where people build houses out of tin and other materials, and there are formal settlements. These are housing units made out of brick, which was an effort that Mandela began post-apartheid. In the townships, everyone was smiling and friendly, yet they have almost nothing. It made me realize how much we take for granted.
How did people respond to Nelson Mandela’s passing?
The energy that week leading up to the funeral was all revolved around him and remembering the life that he led. There were thousands of flowers laid out on the streets and hand-written cards to the Mandela family. It’s not until you are in that environment that you realize he did not only have a physical impact on the laws and government, but an emotional impact on the people and their minds. People really feel like he impacted their lives on a personal level, and he did.
Why did you choose South Africa?
I wanted to go to a country where their first language is English. That narrowed it down pretty quickly. Most of the other English-speaking countries all have a similar culture to that of America, and so I felt South Africa would be the most different. I wanted the “most different.” I wanted something out of my comfort zone.
What differences did you notice?
The languages. You can sit on a bus and hear English, Zulu, Tswana, Afrikaans, and Xhosa. You don’t get that in America. Also, school was the polar opposite of my school in California. We had uniforms, which I ended up liking because I didn’t have to decide what I wanted to wear in the morning. And I got to take classes I had never been able to take back home, like African History and Consumer Studies.
Do you have any favorite memories from your time?
I got to go shark cage diving – that was one of the coolest things. You wear a wet suit and get in the water with them!
What does it feel like to come home?
So far, it’s as if nothing has changed, which is good and kind of weird at the same time. I am glad I can pick up where I left off, but the experience was so personal, that I feel like I have changed drastically, while nothing around me is different.
What advice would you give someone considering studying in South Africa?
I would say to just be open-minded, because, if you go to any country with a closed mind, you are not going to be happy. One thing people should be prepared for when they go to South Africa is that there is more poverty than in America. They should also know that it’s not a reason to be scared. Overall, I found that they (South Africans) are very friendly, loving people – more so than in America. I took the train, taxis, and city buses, but I always felt safe.
How do you think this might affect your future?
I would like to revisit South Africa in the future. I am even considering a year abroad at UCT. I also hope this experience will help me get into college, so that I may continue studying culture and people on a higher academic level. I believe this is just the first step in a long list of cultural-immersion experiences.
Are you a teacher, educator, or homeschooler? Want to use this interview as an educational piece about Mandela or South Africa? Download the Maria_and_Mandela_Educational_Handout.
Want to apply to go to South Africa next year? Go here: http://usa.international-experience.net/study-abroad/apply-now/
The holidays can be one of the best times to fundraise because people are in a generous, happy mood. But do you find people saying, “I’m really busy” or “I just used my money for a present” ? Read below for help to get going.
Fundraising isn’t as hard as it might seem, if you follow these tips. Give your friends and family (and anyone else you can market to) a reason to donate or to buy what you are selling, and keep it short.
If study abroad is your dream, make sure you make that clear as well as why this experience will make a difference to you. Keep what you say or write to under two minutes and people will pay attention at a busy time like this. If they say “no” then keep pushing forward and don’t allow it to slow you down. If you need to adapt your strategy, then do so. Perhaps people keep telling you they are on a diet and don’t buy cookies; so offer them some healthy options!
Don’t know how to bake? Bakesales aren’t the only fundraiser that exists! What about a raffle for a trip to a spa? Or sew cute fabric covers for pet beds to sell. An international dinner, hosted in your language teacher’s classroom. The sky is the limit! We have more resources here.
If you send an email to either friends or different groups around town, tell them how they can act to donate (whether it is an embedded hyperlink to your fundraising website like fundmytravel.com or your name and address in order to send a check). Try to personalize the emails you send, and cater to each group you send out to (church groups, local businesses, relatives).
One of the easiest ways to start fundraising is asking for money to be donated toward your trip instead of receiving presents during the holidays or for birthdays.
Why did you study abroad?
“I had a lot of reasons for studying abroad! one of the main inspirations came from hosting exchange students in my family. I had a wonderful experience learning about another person’s culture, and sharing with and learning from them while they were also sharing with and learning from my family. I really wanted to have that experience as well. Another reason was that I really wanted to be bilingual, and I knew that going on exchange would give me the opportunity to become fluent in a language other than english. Why I chose Italy was also due to many reasons. I chose Italy because I really had always thought it was a very beautiful country, with a rich culture and history. I really wanted to learn Italian and make Italian friends, while learning more about the country. I also wanted to eat Italian food all the time! (who doesn’t?).
I chose to go for a full year because I think that a full year is when you truly start to take away all that the experience has to offer, and a half year is only 50% of the experience. You cut your experience in half, your time with your friends and time to learn the language, and many other things are halved when you do one semester as opposed to a full year abroad.
In the end I truly fulfilled all my goals! I learned Italian and became fluent in it, and was able to attend school, make lots of friends, learn a lot of other life skills (Outside of school), all while enjoying every minute of my experience!”
Ask Grayden a question in the comment section!