My journey in South Africa started with CISabroad, my time there changed my life and the path that lays ahead of me for my future. I was nervous at first to go abroad with little money and a lack of understanding for the environment, but after many conversations with CISabroad I was assured that my only task would be enjoying every minute of Cape Town.
I chose South Africa because I am a health communication student who wanted immersion into a culture that is the very opposite of my own. Coming from Milwaukee, Wisconsin I could not have been given a more foreign experience. The culture was alive in a different way; the people were communal, welcoming, and enjoyed talking to Americans. South Africa allowed me to challenge myself to open up to people and culture in a way that previously made me uncomfortable. Athena, our onsite director, gave us a vision for the community that a tourist or vacationer would never experience. We saw the people, the real people of South Africa, we went to their homes and tried authentic food while enjoying music with the children, and we ate at local restaurants, and were encouraged to participate in the community. Athena gave me a new view of all types of Africa, the diversity, the opportunities, and the adventure. Upon my arrival she showed me the waterfront, and Bo Kaap, a Muslim community with colorful houses. Often times she would take us into local markets and say “try this!” from guava to chicken feet I came home I came and left two different people, my vision for my life as I knew had changed. This was not my first time in a foreign country, but for the first time I felt like a South African and not a tourist. I stayed in a house full of people that gave me an even broader view of the world, from Germany to Switzerland I feel in love with so many types of people.
The internship that I was placed in remains my favorite memory, Cape Town Society for the Blind (CTSB). CTSB is a non-profit organization that reaches out to the blind and visually impaired to allow them to be self sufficient in life with education and job opportunities. My job was as a wellness coordinator and teacher for the students. I travelled to townships to recruit students as well as teach classes on nutrition. I remember being very nervous for the first day of class, having known so little about the culture, but found it so enlightening. I feel that I was taught more that I taught them, I was given insights about common struggles with poverty and disease, learned the difficulty of food availability, and the limited budget that they had to work with. I had many situations that proved vital for nutritional counseling including polio, diabetes, and ulcers. With the company I designed a diabetes awareness presentation, convinced the CEO to integrate a nutrition lesson into the curriculum –which I wrote for them, and organized a wellness club while partnering with Diabetes South Africa to attend. I love the students and still hear from them to this day, while contacting my co-workers frequently to see how they are doing both personally and as an organization.
My time in South Africa will always be the beginning for direction I will take my life; my heart has changed and now will my future. Thank you CISabroad!
Elizabeth S. is a finishing her Senior year at Mt. Mary College and participated on the Intern in South Africa program the summer of 2014. She is still writing and raising money for CTSB as it has made a lasting impact on her life. To read more about Elizabeth’s summer internship and view spectacular pictures from her time abroad, check out her blog! All of our alumni ambassadors have stories they want to share with prospective students! Please contact your CISabroad advisor to contact an alumni for your program of interest.