Four months ago, I was learning how to cook in Cape Town, South Africa. From June to December last year, I interned and studied abroad at the University of Cape Town. When I got to my hostel in Cape Town, I was on my own (the first time since college) in an entirely new city on a completely different continent. No parents, no peers, no problem (or so I thought). I was excited to be in such a different space, but frightened since I was so far away from everything that I was used to. This discomfort was quite invigorating, prospects of navigating in this new space was such a joy but also very daunting. I had to figure out how to feed myself, register and get to classes, while also balancing a 20-hours of work at the Economic Policy Research Institute. At the time, I thought living in Cape Town was going to be impossible.

After the culture shock of being somewhere new, I became more involved with my job, my friends, and the Ultimate Frisbee community in Cape Town. People pointed me to the direction of grocery stores and with the help of Google and my roommates I slowly started cooking for myself. On the weekends—when I wasn’t working—I went to local markets and on hikes around the Mother City. I played Ultimate Frisbee with the University of Cape Town team a few days a week to meet locals and integrate myself into this new environment. After three months, Cape Town felt like home. I was learning from my job, and even more from people I spoke to.

Fast-forward, Study abroad is an absolute joy. If you’re able to have the opportunity to expose yourself to an entirely different history, a culture, way of life, people or well the list goes on. I strongly encourage you to do so. An opportunity to live in a new environment, somewhere outside of the United States doesn’t happen often. In Cape Town, I experienced human kindness and I was exposed to the realities and impact of Apartheid. Above all, I understood my place in the world as a first generation student that attends school in the United States. Thanks to this study abroad experience, I am completely confident in my abilities to live and thrive in any environment. So I urge everyone to give studying away a chance, if you’re considering it give it a try. If you’re still in high school and are interested keep exploring what opportunities are out there!! Remember, a semester away in most countries is generally less expensive (depending on program) than full tuition, room and board in many four-year college or university in the United States. So give yourself a chance, expose your body and mind to new environments, because learning doesn’t just happen within the classroom.