Blog Written By ACE Ambassador: Michelle Paulus
Molweni, ninjani? That translates to “Hello, how are you?” in the Xhosa language. This past winter break, I had the opportunity to travel abroad through the College of ACES to Cape Town, South Africa for three weeks. I found out I was accepted into the program in April of last spring semester, and I did not know how I was going to wait eight months until the experience of a lifetime.
When I came on a campus visit my senior year of high school, I was introduced to the opportunity of study abroad by an advisor. I was hesitant because I did not want to miss out on anything on campus. That problem is one that many students encounter, so they delete the thought of studying abroad from their head. I was proved wrong when I discovered all of the different options that the College of ACES had to go abroad without missing a full semester here on campus. After I heard of the winter break study tour to South Africa from a couple friends, I knew that this was an experience that I could not pass up.
Fall semester flew by and before I knew it I was boarding through the gate that read “Dubai, 6:50.” That was our connecting flight to Cape Town. My emotions were all over the place because I was surrounded by other U of I students but yet I was going to an unfamiliar place. After 24 hours of traveling, we finally arrived at the Cape Town International Airport. We drove to our 20-bedroom house in Observatory and settled in and headed straight for Camp’s Bay to watch the sunset. Between my days of tourism and volunteering at a shelter with children, the time flew by with a blink of an eye.
Throughout my three weeks in South Africa, we had the opportunity to hike mountains, go on a safari, pet cheetahs, tour famous locations filled with rich history, but what I valued the most was having the opportunity to experience a new way of living. We went to a braai in a township as well as spend time with locals. I did not ever think that I would be changed by this three-week study abroad trip, but man was I wrong. I have learned to look at life through a different lens and be more accepting of different people and cultures. If I had not taken this opportunity through the College of ACES, I would have missed out on a life-changing experience. I encourage every student to at least consider the option of going abroad because you learn so much more than you would ever think. Without this experience, I would still be looking at life through a single lens rather than a wide-angle lens.