Where did you explore while studying abroad – your host country or neighboring ones?

I am still jealous of my friends who after studying in Rome, Italy for a semester came back with 10 more countries on their “places I’ve visited” list. The idea that people can explore multiple countries and cultures within just six months (while also studying) is an amazing feature about European programs.

However, when it became my own turn to study abroad in South Africa, I became annoyed with people asking me if I was going to travel to a large number of other countries – especially those in northern Africa that are so far away. For me, as an individual, studying abroad is your opportunity to immerse yourself into another culture and learn how other people live.

Did I travel while living in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa for six months? Yes. I traveled to: Durban; Johannesburg; Cape Town; Drakensburg Mountains; Zulu tribal villages; St. Lucia (near the Swaziland border); safari experiences; and Lesotho (a small landlocked country inside of South Africa).

Do I regret not being able to see more countries in Africa while I was there? Not really. I know that the opportunity to spend six months anywhere but the United States (my home country) becomes harder as life changes (family, work, etc.). I do know that there will always be the opportunity to plan a week-long trip in Paris or London – if I save up my money and my vacation days.

If you have studied abroad before, reflect on how you spent your time exploring and traveling. Did you visit your host country (like I did) or travel around the world within your region (like my friend did)?

If you will be studying abroad soon – think of what you want to remember from your time abroad. If it is to see as many places as possible, make those plans to travel outside of your host country. But if the hope is to truly make friends and to remember your host culture, plan on immersing yourself in your country’s culture and landmarks.