By: Carly Farrell
Study Abroad Program: Health and Healthcare Systems in South Africa
Major: Communication Major
Being home from South Africa has made me feel many different ways. Towards the end of my travels, I did start to miss my family, friends, and boyfriend. But otherwise, I felt like there were still so many things to experience. The return home was definitely bittersweet. I already miss the beauty of the country and the welcoming and open-hearted people there.
Looking back on one of the things that stressed me out most now makes me laugh a bit. Packing is probably one of the things that make me most anxious about travel- I’m always worried I’ll forget something or need something I decided not to bring. In the end, I was actually pretty happy with my packing. I did of course have a few unnecessary things, but overall I was glad I managed to stuff extra layers in because the mornings and evenings were very chilly! I would encourage people who are stressed about packing to really look at the expected weather of the location they are going. And while cutting back is definitely the way to go, always bring things to layer with so you’re prepared for weird weather!
While my trip focused a lot on health care in South Africa and compared to the U.S., I feel like I learned so much more. I learned not just about healthcare, but the people who are truly behind health services- the providers and the people who receive them. I got to experience a different way of community life that is drastically different from our own. When visiting a private and public hospital in Port Elizabeth I was amazed at many things. There are many differences in the way that the hospitals handle things, and often times resources are short. But every doctor we spoke to was so enthusiastic and passionate about what they do. They provide for their community by knowing exactly what is needed and then do their best to supply it. I admired how the sense of welcoming and community in South Africa translated to their health care system.
Our group learned a very valuable word that resonated with us throughout our trip- “ubuntu.” Or “I am, because you are.” That definition is just a small, boiled down aspect of what ubuntu means to the people of South Africa. It means we care for each other, respect humanity and each other, accept, and connect with those around us. The idea of connection and community resonated with me most. To understand the needs of those around you and to be able to reach out and find connection and meaning within your community is so important. I feel that learning about ubuntu was one of the most important things on my trip because it helped me understand the culture and value of connection in South Africa.
My experience in South Africa was definitely amazing. It is already crazy to think that a short while ago I had never been out of the U.S. I’m lucky that I got to go on such an adventure to begin my world traveling.