From, “Isn’t there a white genocide happening there?” to “For a white Christian girl, it cannot be safe there,” and a series of, be safes, rather than, have a great time. Those are the responses I got when I told people I would be spending the next six months of my life in Cape Town, South Africa studying at University of Cape Town (UCT).

Studying abroad is such an eye-opening experience and the cliché of life changing. There are programs all over the world, ranging from all around Europe, to South and Central America and even programs in Washington DC. Taking the chance on studying abroad provides the opportunity of living and growing in a new culture that is unfamiliar and uncomfortable. It is an opportunity to gain a new perspective and understanding of yourself.

I chose to go to South Africa because of the thought, when else would I be able to live in South Africa? I truly could not comprehend how much more Cape Town would mean to me. While living there, I was in a house just off the campus of UCT with ten other Americans from all around the US. My classes were like the average student’s. I took three classes with South Africans, Europeans, Americans and those from around the continent. The learning experience there taught me more than I could imagine. I gained knowledge and an understanding of the effect that colonialism really had on cultures and communities. Hearing and experiencing the remnants of the apartheid showed the wealth disparity that is only seen in South Africa. Seeing this wealth disparity awoke in me a passion to find solutions to the wealth, race and social disparities that lie within our society. My experience abroad showed me that the solution to those problems are not just volunteering or giving to charities, but becoming knowledgeable of the culture, understanding and listening to others and their stories to work together to find those solutions. That will lead to a more sustainable, unified society.

If you have any questions about studying abroad in general or my experience, please do not hesitate to email me at,

Madliyn Atkins

Class of 2017