Tatiana, Sponsor-A-Scholar class of 2013 and Frankford High School graduate, is now in her Junior year at Arcadia University. Unlike most of her classmates, however, Tatiana did not begin the fall semester by returning to Arcadia’s Glenside, Pennsylvania campus. Instead, she embarked on an adventure to South Africa, where she’s studying abroad at University of Cape Town this semester! A Sociology major with an interest in social justice, Tatiana looks forward to a career as a social worker or career guidance counselor. While Tatiana always knew she wanted to study abroad, she was inspired by her studies as a Pan African Studies minor to select South Africa as her destination. We’re so grateful to Tatiana for taking the time out of her very busy class schedule to share some thoughts about her experiences abroad:
Why did you decide to study in South Africa?
“Sophomore year I started taking a few classes at Arcadia University that dealt with gaining knowledge about Black origins, history, and representation. I took classes such as African-Americans in The Media and Intro to Africana Studies. When I started taking these classes I became very interested in gaining more knowledge because in my high school I was not taught many of the things I learned at AU. So once I decided to minor in the subject, I thought, “what would be a better way to gain knowledge about my minor then going to South Africa?”
How did you find out about the opportunity to study abroad?
“Arcadia is ranked number one in the nation for study abroad opportunities for students and they promote this heavily. Before my admission into AU, I knew I would be able to travel abroad. It was one of the reasons I was very excited to go to AU. Once you are a student at AU and you decide you want to travel, there are Study Abroad sessions that students must attend in order to be able to travel. This is where I became knowledgeable about the different potential locations, expenses, and time frames available for studying abroad.”
Are your college classes different or more challenging in South Africa than they are at Arcadia?
“Yes! The workload is a bit different than Arcadia, therefore it is a bit challenging for me. For example, at Arcadia classes can range from three times a week, twice a week, or once a week. Also there is an array of assignments throughout the semester and usually one professor teaches the course. Arcadia classes are small, with no more the 25 students in a class. Here at University of Cape Town, there is class almost every day (I am lucky to have Mondays off), and there are not many assignments throughout the semester besides mid-terms, finals, and exams which are weighted heavily. Here at UCT, class sizes are so large (one class has about 200 students) and classes are broken down further into Tutorial groups. Tutorial groups are about 30 students per group and they are 45 minutes long. The Tutorial sessions are more personal and “Arcadia-like.” In the session, we are able to ask more questions, get to know some classmates, and gain a relationship with the tutor. Many courses are taught by more than one professor. For example, one class has three professors and they each take a few weeks to teach their specific field. I don’t like the switching professors that much, but I just got used to it.
What is one valuable lesson or skill that you learned during your time in South Africa?
“It is very hard to choose just one because I have learned so much! One valuable skill I learned here is the ability to just be open-minded and able to adapt. It has been important during my time in South Africa for me to take time to just listen and observe. I am an outgoing, social, and involved person and coming to South Africa was a huge change for me. I felt like a tiny fish in a huge pond. Initially, when things did not go my way, my first reaction was to panic and try to take control. But since time has passed, I’ve learned to not create expectations for everything. I’ve understood that sometimes even extroverts need to be watch and listen before acting. I have been learning to be able to adapt to change, rather than fight it.”
What advice would you give to a PF Collegian who is thinking about going abroad?
“Travel abroad– it is an experience everyone should enjoy. In each place that I have traveled I have always gained a better and broader understanding of the world and my place in it. I would also suggest that students pick a place that is a less popular destination. Traveling abroad becomes a lot harder once you are out of school. So pick a place that is different, one that challenges you– because the outcome and growth is so worth it. I chose South Africa because I wanted to challenge misconceptions and to bring back knowledge to educate others. “
Safe travels, Tatiana! We can’t wait to see how you apply everything you’re learning this semester toward your continued growth and success as a scholar.
Note from the Futures staff: Since Tatiana responded to our profile questions, student protests at the University of Cape Town have been in the international news. Tatiana sent this photo from the protests. Learn more about the protests here: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/22/world/africa/south-africa-university-students.html?_r=0
If you’re a Philadelphia Futures Collegian who’d like to share one of your most interesting college experiences, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.