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Reflecting on Stellenbosch, South Africa

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Last Updated on December 8, 2014 by

We’ve been posting reflections from alumni on the blog recently to really highlight how important and impactful the experience can be. Katherine studied in Stellenbosch, South Africa in the fall of 2008 and sent this to the office in South Africa  upon her return.


Dear AIFS,

I just wanted to let you know some thoughts about my previous semester in Suid Afrika! Looking back on my semester at Stellenbosch, it is hard to believe that the trip I looked forward to for so long has already happened, the pictures have already been printed, and the memories recorded in journals. I have met lifelong friends who shared this unique experience with me. It is hard to come home and try to explain what my life in South Africa was like. I share pictures and anecdotes with family and friends, knowing that they can’t possibly know how it felt to see a township for the first time, wake up to the beauty of the Stellenbosch Mountains every morning, or feel at home half way around the world. While it wasn’t exactly what I expected all the time, I learned a lot about the world and myself. I know I will carry this experience with me wherever life takes me.

My life at home is filled with Amnesty International meetings and social protests. In the States my life was completely consumed with social activism. With that in mind, I went to South Africa with the expectation that I would save some part of Africa. Instead, I think I ended up saving myself.

I learned how to have fun and go with the flow! I did things that I never thought I would and saw things that I have only seen in National Geographic. During my time abroad, I white-water rafted down the Zambezi, learned how to scuba dive, bungee jumped off one of the highest bridges, rode an elephant and camel, ate worms, took surf lessons, snorkeled with whale-sharks in Mozambique, and sand-boarded down the magnificent sand dunes of Namibia. I have no clue why people want to study abroad in Europe!

Needless to say, I gained a greater appreciation for many aspects of life. I feel privileged and blessed to have been a part of your program. To say that your Stellenbosch program is well run and worthwhile would be a gross understatement. Hestea De Wet and Mike Leslie are truly wonderful people with exceptionally large hearts!

Thank you for providing me with this experience and enriching my life.

Katherine Smith

Stellenbosch Fall 2008 Participant

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