O’Neill student Rachel Van Voorhis spent last summer in beautiful South Africa on one of O’Neill’s summer abroad programs. She shared her experiences with us, including her favorite parts of her weeks in the country.
Interested in studying abroad next summer? Applications close January 27.
What attracted you to the South Africa summer program?
VAN VOORHIS: I was attracted to the South Africa program because I have always been interested in the natural world but have never been exposed to environmental management principles or techniques outside of the U.S. I felt that this program would be beneficial for me to diversify my own perspectives regarding ecology and connect with individuals outside of my own culture about common interests.
What advice would you give students who are hesitant about studying abroad?
VAN VOORHIS: Hesitant students should know that studying abroad adds incredible value to your academic, professional, and personal life. You are given the freedom to explore your interests in the real world, learn from people with wildly different experiences, and come back with a unique story that sets you apart from others. You also get an opportunity to push your own boundaries and try new foods and activities that are only possible through going abroad.
How has studying abroad benefitted you as a person?
VAN VOORHIS: Studying in South Africa broadened my worldview and made me a more culturally aware individual. Throughout the trip, many of my personal views and expectations were tested and caused me to reevaluate my own beliefs. I feel like I can navigate complex issues with more grace and be more introspective in my conversations with others.
What is your favorite memory, story, or experience while studying abroad in South Africa?
VAN VOORHIS: My favorite memory from South Africa was staying in the River Cottages along the Crocodile River. In the mornings we could watch the sunrise and the different animals that would visit the river. On back-to-back days we saw wild dogs and a leopard chasing impala on the bank. We also shared meals together every day and were welcomed to our in-country professors’ homes where they cooked a traditional meal for us and made the group feel very integrated in the program.
What is a fun fact about yourself?
VAN VOORHIS: A fun fact about myself is that my dad is a pilot, which made me more interested in exploring other countries and cultures.