Grand Rapids, MI
Senior (PSI & SOC)
My goal in life has always been achieving understanding of those things that most affect my world. Throughout the course of my relatively short life I have come to the understanding that my focus in life will always be people. In keeping with that, I plan to pursue a Master's degree in Psychology.
My academic experience at the University of Cape Town in South Africa offered me opportunities for growth in the field of Psychology that I would never have been privy to at WMU. After the first day of class you realize the level of academics demands more of you, and now that you’re 2000 miles from home, there is no turning back. At this moment you have a choice; see the trip as a mistake, or see it as an opportunity to see what it is that you are truly capable of. Academically you will test yourself: It sounds stressful I know, but amidst several thousand others in the same position as you there is an immense amount of positive reinforcement.
James and his roommate, Oyvind, at Camps Bay, Western Cape
Besides you don’t spend all of your time in school. I enjoy learning and every moment of the semester was an amazing opportunity to see an entirely different way of life. Academically, the trip completely reinforced my choice to go into psychology and gave me the motivation I needed to make that decision and strive to achieve it.
In preparing for the trip there is a lecture on culture shock and integration that you attend in which you are warned about the vast cultural differences and basically asked to be understanding, accepting, and open. Many people took this very seriously and this dramatic difference is what the majority of people will see and internally realize that a simple lack of understanding may prevent them from stepping outside their comfort zone.
Old colonial buildings in downtown Cape Town
I consider myself a relativist and a humanist—the type of person who views life as an adventure and sees each moment and person in my life as extremely important. I have never wanted an ordinary life, I’ll settle for nothing less than extraordinary. This trip did not change me, it reminded me of who I am and gave me the reinforcement I needed to continue being me. This experience showed me other people with the same sense of humanity I have always felt welling up inside of me and gave positive backing to even the slightest good intention. The trip and the people justified my existence. This doesn’t begin to explain the way the experience positively impacted my life. I will say that Africa will some day be my home as a result of the experience though.
South Africa has 11 official languages. There are several ethnic languages that are regional dialects. English connects virtually all people. At times gestures and expressions are needed, but with a little patience and understanding you can convey just about any message.
View of Table Mountain from Signal Hill
If it isn’t blatantly obvious at this point, I would recommend the trip to almost anyone. If you feel you’re missing something in your educational experience than this is what I would confidently recommend as a solution. If anything about the South African Program seems unappealing then another study abroad program is going to offer a similar experience to the untravled individual. Take an opportunity of a lifetime and get to know yourself again.