Elaina C., a student at Longwood University, studied for a semester in South Africa with CISabroad. Due to her time in South Africa she has decided to join the Peace Corps. Learn how her time abroad helped her grow as a person, and encouraged her to continue to explore and serve those around her.
1.Where and when did you study abroad?
I studied abroad in the Fall of 2015 and studied in Stellenbosch, South Africa.
2.What is one of your favorite memories from your time abroad?
My favorite memories from abroad would have to be the service aspect of our trip. This included volunteering at an orphanage with the CISabroad site director, as well as other service opportunities found through a friend. We were truly able to give back to the wonderful community around us and not just be tourists but truly participate in the community.
3.What is one of the biggest challenges you faced during your time abroad, and how did overcoming it help you to grow as an individual?
From the beginning the culture shock was much more of a challenge than I thought it would be originally. At first, I was convinced I would adapt easily and learn to adjust. I did on many levels, but I also learned that South Africa and the city I was in was just different and I would have to adjust. I think this overall helped me discover who I am as a person and adjust to the hurdles life has thrown at me. It motivated me to seek out adventure outside of my comfort zone.
4.How did studying abroad impact your future goals, and did it affect your decision to join the Peace Corps?
Studying abroad taught me that sometimes the hardest challenges produce the greatest rewards. While in South Africa I learned so much about who I am as a person and found a part of me I had been missing. In addition the love for service and being abroad taught me that I would not be happy if I did not seek out further adventure. I learned from my time abroad that when we step out of our comfort zones we make ourselves and the world a better place to live in.
5.Where will you be serving in the Peace Corps? What are you most excited for, and what are you most nervous about?
I will be serving in the Dominican Republic and I am very excited to experience a new country and new community. I am excited to be immersed into a new culture, and embark on a new journey. I am nervous about the language immersion aspect of the position and the country. I am nervous about going through the culture shock again but I know because of my experience abroad I will make it through and find the life changing experience that study abroad proved to be for me.
6.What advice do you have for students thinking about studying abroad?
My advice to those thinking of studying abroad is stop thinking and do it. Never in your life will you have the opportunity to explore the world, study what you love and get to know yourself like you never have before. Studying abroad seems like it is impossible to afford or to make it through. But there are so many opportunities for funding, assistance and so many other routes available. My advice is don’t make excuses, do what will make you happy. Before you know it this experience will have an impact on your life, career opportunity, and so much more.