I spent the Spring 2018 semester in Cape Town, South Africa, studying sustainability and the environment through CIEE. I chose this location for the program specifically, but it ended up being a great choice for many reasons: the outdoor and active lifestyle (surfing, shark diving, seal swimming, hiking, biking, climbing, beaching, paragliding, sandboarding, etc.), the weather (goodbye TN humidity), the cultural experience (this country has 11 official languages and is EXTREMELY diverse…international city hotspot), and the escape from a “traditional” abroad location.

Cape Town is full of outdoor activities, art, music, food, culture, history, and just about anything for anyone. Despite the classic study abroad experience of learning about other cultures, visiting new cities, and expanding your horizons, studying abroad gave me the chance to take courses in content that UTC does not specifically offer—sustainable development in my case. I was exposed to local sustainability projects, alternative styles of education, the idea of complex systems, and sustainable architecture,  and even learned more about other parts of the United States.

Beyond the classroom, I was given the chance to do a variety of activities that I could not do in Tennessee such as day trips to the wine lands, 25 minute drives to the beach, and a weekend getaway for a safari. I feel that one of the most important aspects of studying abroad is to go into it having low expectations; take your experience as it comes at you because no matter what other people tell you, no matter how much you read about it, the experience will be dependent on you.

You will be spending months away from home, your “normal life”, and you do not know what will happen abroad, so you should just enter the experience with an open mindset (and realize that you will spend all of your money, but do not let that scare you off. Money comes back). The experience is different for everyone. Maybe you are looking for adventure. Looking for yourself. Looking for experience. Looking to volunteer. Looking to intern or work. Looking to learn. Whatever you are looking for in a study abroad experience, do it. It will be worth it.

Lauren Dunn is majoring in Management with a minor in Environmental Science. She spent a semester studying Global Sustainability and Environment in Cape Town, South Africa through CIEE

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