It was Super Bowl Sunday.
If you remember, last year’s game wasn’t very good. I’ll go as far as to say it wasn’t worth watching. Thus, I was distracted by my cell phone.
I received a text message from Beth Ann with Go Global, reminding me that a few months prior, I had written my name down on a piece of paper requesting more information about studying abroad after listening to Joanna speak at my sorority’s chapter meeting. She asked me if I was still interested in the program.
I turned to my best friend, Amber, sitting in the kitchen, and asked, “…wanna go to Africa?”
After meeting with Beth Ann (actually twice in one day, lunch and dinner) and having some long phone conversations with our parents…Amber and I committed to a 5-week study abroad trip in Cape Town, South Africa within 7 days.
Here I am, 7 months later, an intern for this amazing company, and it’s all because I replied “yes” to a text message, got on a 24-hour plane ride, and got out of my comfort zone. But, the spontaneity of the trip didn’t come without challenges.
When explaining to my parents that my desired location was Cape Town, they were so confused. “Are you sure you don’t want to go to Europe? You could see so many countries. You could go so many places.” I thought long and hard about this, but ultimately, I answered their questions and dismissed their concerns with confidence. My decision was made, and I trusted my gut feeling in supporting that decision. This is why I chose Cape Town:
1. I knew I would get to Europe eventually. I didn’t know if I’d ever get to Africa.
Studies show that approximately 52 percent of the world’s travelers went to Europe last year while only 5 percent traveled to Africa. Additionally, 6 out of the 10 most visited countries for tourists were European, while none of them were African. Whether I go to Europe with my girlfriends from college after graduation, with my husband in 10 years, or with my children in 20 years, I know I will get there eventually. It is a very popular tourist destination, and is relatively easy to get to, with an average flight of 7 hours (in comparison to my flight to Africa, which took 24 hours). Getting to Africa was less likely to happen in my lifetime — this was my chance.
2. If I did, in fact, get to Africa in my lifetime, I would have no idea what to do or see.
If you handed me a notepad and a pen and asked me to make a list of all of the things I wanted to see in Europe and where they were located, I think I could brainstorm all day long. We all know a good amount about Europe — its geography, its history, its culture. That’s not the case with Africa. When I thought “Africa,” I thought of animals, drums, and underprivileged children. If you handed me a notepad and a pen and asked me what else there was in Africa, how I could go about seeing it, and where it was located, I would have had absolutely no clue where to start. It made sense to me to go on a structured and organized trip with a group of people who have been traveling to Africa for many years, building connections with locals and having a very good understanding and skill-set of what to see and do. I can take on Europe by myself. I couldn’t take on Africa by myself.
3. I wanted to do something different.
Most students who study abroad choose the United Kingdom, France, or Spain. Go Global works hard to establish programs in locations that we think are different and will provide you with once-in-a-lifetime opportunities, setting you apart from the crowd in the eyes of a future employer or anyone with a strong sense of wanderlust. By choosing Africa, I wasn’t choosing the dorm-style, on-your-own, country-hop route where I could meet up with my friends in other countries who were also studying abroad if I wanted to. I was choosing a completely different continent, 10,000 miles away, working collaboratively and interactively with a program that helped me every step of the way, living in a beautiful apartment on the beach and submerging myself in this one and only country for the entire duration of the 5-week trip. To me, that is studying abroad: immersing yourself in the culture enough to want to stay put and feel like a local. I didn’t want a vacation — I wanted to feel like I lived somewhere. And I did.
In retrospect…here’s why I’m, indeed, glad I chose Cape Town:
Cape Town was everything I thought it would be. I went on an African safari. I ate cultural dinners where my face was painted and I was entertained by African drumming. I served in a township of African children. But it was also so much more.
It was the glamorous beaches, the upscale shopping, the fine dining. The omniscient Table Mountain, the die-hard rugby fans, the Dutch accent. The architecture, the nightlife, the wine country. It had so many things that are overlooked by the rest of the world. South Africa has so much to offer, and I’m glad that I got to see that for myself and experience it firsthand.
As far as history is concerned, South Africa offers a unique experience, considering the country’s period of Apartheid ended only 20 years ago. Their beloved leader, Nelson Mandela, died this past December. These recent events make the educational experience especially pertinent, leading the New York Times to deem it as the number one spot on their list “52 places to go in 2014.”
I had an experience that most people will never have in their lifetime, and I got to experience it with Go Global — the best of the best! That desire I felt to do something different was unequivocally satisfied by answering “yes” to that text message on Super Bowl Sunday. I’ll go a step further and tell you without reservation: it changed my life.
So, If you are thinking of studying abroad in Cape Town…make sure YOU answer with “yes!”
-Anna and the Go Global team