South Africa Penguins…in the heart of Atlanta, Georgia

That’s right – South Africa penguins in Atlanta. Not what you typically think you will see when visiting the Atlanta aquarium. However, where penguins come from is not typically something that people care about…unless you’ve been where they come from!

As I reach the 2-year mark for the day I left to return to the United States from South Africa, I find myself thinking back to that semester abroad. (Let’s face it – working on study abroad and international student initiatives doesn’t quite help either in forgetting!) A group of Americans I studied abroad with at University of Kwa-Zulu Natal, in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, tried to arrange a reunion for this summer which fell through.

This makes me glad that I decided to spend the spring break of my senior year as an undergraduate (last year) visiting with two girls that were my best friends while abroad in South Africa. A year ago, I spent a week in Atlanta, Georgia, visiting with them. In addition to doing the touristy visit to the Coca-Cola museum, we also visited the Atlanta zoo and aquarium – the latter where we received a welcome surprise. Not only was there an interactive penguin exhibit – the penguins were from South Africa!

(Backtracking a little bit, seeing penguins natively in South Africa was something I really wanted to do while there. During our week-long visit to Cape Town over spring break in 2010, we girls split up one day to do whatever we individually wanted to do. For me, this included a day trip to Cape of Good Hope (the southwestern most point of the African continent) and seeing penguins on their natural beach habitat – including other various wildlife.)

Upon noticing that the penguins at the Georgia Aquarium were from South Africa, my friends and I started to talk “smack” to the penguins – by saying things like “I saw your mother in South Africa – next time I visit there again I’ll tell her you said hello!” …Maybe it was one of those instances where you had to be there.

Regardless, random things can make you think of your own abroad experiences. Whether it be an animal at the zoo or aquarium, a favorite candy bar you find at your local store, etc – the possibilities are endless! Look at these moments not as sad reminders as to what you had and are no longer experiencing. Instead, look at these reminders as how can you impress the importance of study abroad and intercultural education to others.

(For those who want more information on the South African penguins at the aquarium in Atlanta, Georgia: