Keneshia Estime recently completed a semester abroad in South Africa! This is her story…
Though I have been back in America for a little over a month, it still feels like I left South Africa yesterday. I remember landing in Cape Town International Airport, phoning my mom, and slightly tearing up as soon as I heard her sweet voice. I had only been at the airport for a couple of minutes and I was already feeling lonely. I was the only student from CISabroad to study on the Semester in South Africa program. This initially worried me a bit, but it turned out to be one of the greatest aspects of my experience. Maybe a month before my departure, I emailed my program coordinator and told him I had a change of heart and opted to not go to Ghana. Though I couldn’t wait to visit Ghana, I am beyond satisfied that I followed my instincts and studied in South Africa. Trusting my instincts proved to be a valuable trait that I am happy I learned early on. Being on a budget and trusting my instincts helped me to stay safe, travel all over South Africa, and most importantly learning while truly enjoying myself.
Arriving To South Africa:
As soon as I arrived at my accommodation, my onsite coordinator, Athena pulls up simultaneously and from the moment we met, I knew I had made the right choice. Athena is beyond genuine, warm, real and simply the epitome of a support system. Being a child that has never been that far from home for an extended period of time and living with seven siblings, she felt like a big sister from home. Although I was the only student in South Africa for the semester, Athena incorporated the interns and I with various activities, like cooking lessons and township tours.
Benefits Of Traveling By Yourself:
Traveling alone was more beneficial than I could have ever imagined. I was able to connect with the locals, which proved to be a pinnacle part of my journey. Traveling alone boosted my confidence and awareness of others including myself. It helped me learn some of the languages my friend’s spoke, which ended up helping me connect with this journey even more. Another reason why I enjoyed traveling alone was the fact that there was no plans to stick to! I am without a doubt missing the friends and family I made in Stellenbosch, Kayamandi, Cape Town, Gugulethu, Durban, Johannesburg and all the other beautiful places I left my heart in throughout my time in South Africa.
Certain Experiences In South Africa:
Trusting my instincts helped me personalize my experience and become fearless. I was warned to stay out of the townships and to avoid traveling on the trains and the buses. Though I sincerely thank all the people who advised me against those places because I know they had my best interest in heart. Quit honestly though, these places are where I can not wait to return to someday. Staying safe was my number one priority but I wanted to really make this experience special and my own. The trains and buses in Stellenbosch and Cape Town are safe and clean and definitely something I would not want to miss out on. Where else can you look out the train window and see beautiful zebra’s and cows? Some of my fondest memories are from the townships. There were times I was dancing with the locals, buying chicken feet from vendors, and even playing soccer with the young kids are just a few things that will forever be in my heart.
Things You Miss About Your Experience:
I sometimes struggle being away from South Africa because I know a piece of me is still there. I miss learning something unique everyday, I miss leaving my flat and walking into a braii. I even miss walking barefoot without the strange stares that you will normally get here. I miss mzoli’s, the meat, the music, I basically miss everything about South Africa and what came with it.
Last thoughts Of Your Study Abroad Experience:
I really hope to inspire other students like me, who may have thought studying abroad was only an opportunity for “rich kids”. I was able to do, see, and learn way more than I expected and planned to. I tried to take full advantage of every opportunity presented to me in South Africa. I hiked mountains, rode horses while spotting giraffes and zebras, and tried every kind of food possible. I overcame copious fears like having my hair braided! I was able to travel on holidays as much as I did because instead of booking flights, I traveled by bus! I was able to visit Durban, Johannesburg, Knysna, and various places in Namibia all on a budget. I went to the Apartheid Museum, hung out with elephants and monkeys in Pletternberg bay, visited Africa’s tallest waterslide, and was even able to visit the most beautiful beaches that till this day, I can say that I’ve ever seen. Although I ate out a lot, I also found time to cook for myself as well. This was an important aspect for me because I was able to save money while learning to cook for myself. Therefore I had even greater opportunity to travel and learn more about South Africa!
I sometimes find myself looking back at my pictures and reflecting on this journey and I still cannot believe I left home for six whole months! I did not think it was possible for me to study abroad. I continuously told myself that I would not be able to sustain myself in another country. I am happy I went for it and cannot wait to visit my friends that I made their, hopefully sooner rather than later!
To connect with Keneshia and other alumni, visit our Alumni Profile Pages. By engaging with our alumni you will help keep their memories alive and at the same time gain valuable travel advice.