Studying abroad? Yea, it’s a little bit terrifying at first. You’re basically signing up to start over at a new university, and we all remember the first days of freshman year. Nevertheless, I’m used to traveling by myself and not knowing what exactly I’m getting myself into, so I figured studying abroad couldn’t be much different from my other trips. To a certain extent this was true and I wasn’t overly worried about it, but in the last week or so before my departure, it sank in that I was the only person from Wheaton going to this program, and in that moment I seriously questioned why I didn’t plan better and go abroad with a friend. I had no idea who the other people in my program were, and I didn’t have a clue if I was going to like any of them. At this point, my only choice was to adapt an attitude of “oh well who cares it’ll be fine” and get on that plane, and so I did, because I was in too deep and it was happening. After more than 24 hours of traveling, I finally arrived at Rhodes University in Grahamstown, South Africa, and throughout the following week I met the 14 other slightly terrified girls studying abroad there. I quickly realized that we were all in the same boat, and we bonded over shared nervousness and excitement.
Now, two and a half months later, I see that these people are equally as important to making my study abroad experience great as is the space I’m in and the places I’m traveling. It was a great relief to have found people who all have the same goal, which is to travel and see as much as possible of the culture, nature, and experiences that this country has to offer (including, but not limited to, the absurdly cheap food and alcohol). Moreover, the FOMO that I felt creeping on once I got here had been very real, but I then remembered that I have another year and a half at Wheaton to experience all the madness that is Norton life, and that the chance to study abroad at a university in South Africa was a one-time opportunity. Thus, with this reality check in mind, I put a halt on all that worrying about what I might be missing, and rather focused on the awesome adventures I was having here in South Africa (because let’s be honest, swimming with Great White sharks is a bit more exciting than swimming with the ducks in Peacock pond [RIP Cowduck]).