South Africa: An experience abroad

MARIA RAPISARDA | CONTRIBUTING COLUMNIST

When you talk to most college graduates about their study abroad experience they’ll tell you one of three things: “Oh, I didn’t have time for that,” “Yeah, I went to Australia!” or “Europe was amazing.”

A study abroad experience is supposed to open you up to new ideas and cultures and push you outside your comfort zone. Australia and most of Europe are classified as “Western” countries.

This is not to say that Australia or Europe are not excellent places to study abroad. Of course, one can have culture shock in those countries, but for the most part an average American student can get by perfectly fine and not encounter major difficulties.

I am on the GALA 2016 study abroad trip in South Africa, Mozambique and Victoria Falls. GALA, which stands for Global Adventures in the Liberal Arts, is a program specific to Butler University that allows a select group of students to travel with faculty to complete Butler courses in another country.

GALA does take trips to common areas, such as Europe, but for the most part the program encourages unconventional travel.

Most students don’t take advantage of GALA even though 100 percent of your financial aid can go toward you study abroad experience. It is completely planned in advance without any stressing on your end. Another plus from the program is that it is actually cheaper—personally—to study abroad through the program than if I were to stay on campus.

Initially, I had planned on studying abroad the summer after my sophomore or junior year in order to better prepare myself for a new environment. However, sometimes in life opportunities come your way that you know you cannot pass up.

I have had the opportunity to sit down and have conversations with members of the African National Congress—the ruling party of South Africa and the one that Nelson Mandela was a part of—and Frelimo, the ruling party of Mozambique.

A woman in Soweto had various exotic animals and let Rapisarda hold a snake. Photo courtesy of Maria Rapisard.

A woman in Soweto had various exotic animals and let Rapisarda hold a snake.
Photo courtesy of Maria Rapisarda.

I toured the Moses Mobhida Stadium in Durban with the man who designed it, and went on a safari in Kruger National Park—where I saw elephants, giraffes, lions, leopards, rhinos and buffalo.

I took a chance on applying for GALA 2016 as a sophomore and as a homebody, but in all honesty I don’t regret a second of it.

Take a chance. Challenge yourself. Stretch your personal boundaries and study abroad.

The view at 4:15 a.m. for a game walk in Pretoriuskop in Kruger National Park. Photo by Maria Rapisarda.

The view at 4:15 a.m. for a game walk in Pretoriuskop in Kruger National Park.
Photo by Maria Rapisarda.

 

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