South Africa, India and the Philippines: a three-year journey that started with studying abroad Study Abroad

Studying abroad and every day on which the experience is unpacked is unique for every student who chooses the company. When I read about my experiences in this article and see past experiences of other students through social media or other forms, I would like to draw attention to you as a reader. I hope my story and other information and recommendations will help you make the best decision based on your values ​​and what you want to learn more about as an individual. Above all, I would like to emphasize that finance is a real and understandable concern of the students when they are about to study abroad. The attached article shows how the USAC leads students to resources and will personally help them find resources that alleviate many student concerns. I can speak personally about my experience with a scholarship advisor who supported and effectively made my semester abroad possible. “Receiving the Gilman Scholarship compromised my ability to travel abroad by being able to live comfortably in my program city without having to worry about financial problems that could get in the way.

Have you ever read this before? The alchemist? If not, it is a young shepherd from Andalusia, Spain, who is looking for his personal legend. The author, Paulo Coelho, describes the boy’s life as a reflection of each of our lives. He believes that we all have a personal legend and if we follow their calling it will change our lives.

I have always referred to this idea of ​​wanting to align myself with my purpose. As a major in journalism and strategic communication, writing, networking and advertising were a matter of course for me. But I was really only attracted to marketing products that I firmly believed would have a positive impact on others. During my junior year, when I felt a little bit like I had just got on a bus and not sure where to go, I decided to study abroad.

A student studying abroad in Stellenbosch, South Africa on a road trip to Etosha National Park in Namibia
Taken during a road trip to the Etosha National Park in Namibia

My family really supported my first semester abroad. Listening to the people I love and whom I trust the most who speak about such an impressive experience gave me one last impetus. After making the decision, I decided to tell a couple of close friends who also really appreciate traveling. They were thrilled and asked me where I was going to study and I said, “I’m not sure, but I think Spain.” (Spain was a destination where I had seen so many people studying abroad, and it felt like the place you go to if you choose to study abroad.) I was so excited learning from another country that I hadn’t taken the time to thoroughly study other programs. My friends looked at each other and said:

“When you choose the place where you want to study abroad, you have no question in your head. You will know that you should go there.”

I didn’t have that feeling about Spain, so I started looking for it. I received a USAC package with a catalog listing each of them USAC locations and I started reading about each program. I quickly realized that I didn’t know much about a country in Africa, the history of the continent or individual countries, and past relationships between the United States. It immediately seemed to be an opportunity rooted in education, an opportunity to learn more about an incredible part of the world.

I have seen that there are two locations in Africa that USAC offers, one in Ghana and one in South Africa. I started reading about the program Stellenbosch, South Africa and it totally fascinated me. The courses that interested me included gender, culture in the state of South Africa, and transitional justice in Africa. When I read the description, I knew it was a program that offered an invaluable educational experience.

Stellenbosch University, USAC students take classes when studying abroad
One of my favorite buildings on the Stellenbosch University campus where all legal courses are held

My favorite part of my time in South Africa was the education I received. I met a lot of people who weren’t afraid of tough conversations, and my class introduced materials that developed my social and political views. Issues like the white rescue complex and poverty tourism have made me more aware of the effects of my actions and my footprint as a traveler. This in turn made me recognize my own voice and the impact it has on the world.

During my semester, my favorite class was gender, culture in the state of South Africa. I learned a lot about gender and how important it is to learn about it on a global level. In the middle of the semester, I decided to switch my minor to study women.

I saw the importance of continuing to learn about race, gender and feminism and how it would serve me as a global citizen.

During my last month I tried to find a way to continue my education in South Africa, but the classes I needed to graduate were not available. I wanted to challenge my thoughts further and learn more about social structures, religion and other cultures. I started researching online and met my wife’s student advisor the week I returned to the United States study abroad in India. I was able to meet all of my secondary requirements and graduate on time as they offered many gender courses. The program was also one of the cheapest options and I was able to save for the next 6 months before I left.

On that day, one of Christ University's many cultural festivals, students marched through the campus and showed different decades of Indian history.
On that day, one of Christ University’s many cultural festivals, students marched through the campus and showed different decades of Indian history.

My time in India was lively, educational and loud – like me !! It was the best possible challenge both inside and outside the classroom. It developed the way I understand religion versus spirituality, it taught me powerful principles from Hinduism, Buddhism and Islam and it showed me the beauty of cultures that are very different and a deep sense of respect for those who invested it Practice life differently than I do. Here is a video that I made during my time in India that gives an insight into my daily experiences.

During my semester in India, I contacted my former manager who is now a specialist in digital communication at USAC, the study abroad office on my campus. I asked her for instructions on my next step and if she could send me vacancies that match what I was looking for. A week later, she sent me a list for an internship in content marketing in the Philippines. I applied and within a few weeks I had committed to move to the Philippines and do an internship in content marketing for six months.

A view of the island where I lived is called Leyte – behind this photo is one of my favorite restaurants with a view of Tacloban City

My internship at GoAbroad introduced me to international education. I didn’t know the area existed, and after conducting information interviews with other professionals, I realized that I wanted to pursue a marketing and communications career for a provider abroad. This work is very important to me and I know that my marketing skills combined with my experience abroad can reach the students and hopefully provide them with the information they need to study abroad. More importantly, I hope to remove obstacles and misunderstandings that students have when studying abroad, and to provide information and resources that will help them make the best decision for them.

When I look back at all of this, I never had the feeling that I was on the right bus, taking the right route and getting off at every perfectly calculated stop – on the contrary. If you read this and hope to find a guide on your route, you won’t find an answer if you go the same way as I did. What my story offers is a guide on how to take deliberate steps forward based on who you are, what you love, and what you think is best for you. I know this may seem easy, but it can make powerful decisions.

After getting to know the meaning of the Ganga for Hinduism, I visited Varanasi alone and hired an incredible guide who was born just outside the city. This was the special trip I took

A few things that my story speaks to: Studying twice abroad is possible and affordable – whether for two semesters, two spring or summer semesters or one semester and one spring / summer semester. I received grants for both semesters that helped me a lot. It is also possible to do an internship abroad. The company for which I did an internship paid all the costs including my flights and a monthly scholarship for the running costs. Studying abroad at USAC not only promoted my education and helped me follow my passion, but USAC also helped me live an exciting life beyond studying abroad.

Where do you start There are many opportunities and people waiting to help. Do research, meet with your academic advisor, meet with a study abroad consultant, meet with a financial support advisor and the director of the scholarship department at USAC, and make a plan! These are specific steps you can take to find out what options for studying abroad at USAC and what financial support is available.

Like the shepherd from Aldusia The alchemistMy advice is to tap into your personal legend – what you love and what you are passionate about. That is not always easy. My story also includes arguments, self-doubt, sleepless nights, and three jobs. You can face all of these battles if you are able to use your passion, turn to those around you who are waiting to help and get the job done – it will surely pay off. As Coehlo says, happiness of beginners is on your side if you use your personal legend.

Running through the trees in Stellenbosch, South Africa during the USAC study abroad
On my first day abroad in Stellenbosch, South Africa, I will never forget this run under the trees.

Finally, consider focusing on academics when deciding which study abroad program is right for you. In my experience, academics were my favorite part of my two semesters abroad.

When travel is rooted in education, it offers invaluable experiences that will accompany you for the rest of your life. It manifests itself in the form of developed social and political views, intercultural competence, maturity, courage, personal development and empathy among many other skills.

All of these qualities have helped me to perform excellently during my six-month internship in the Philippines, and they continue to serve me daily!

If you need additional support or do not believe that studying abroad is possible for you, please feel free to email me. I will do everything to enable you to study abroad! [email protected]

Mary Alice attended college in Stellenbosch, South Africa, Bengaluru, India, and graduated from the University of Nevada, Reno, with a degree in journalism and a minor in women’s studies. She is known for giving loud women empowerment toasts and boxes whenever she gets a chance. Her passion is international education and she recently completed a marketing internship at in the Philippines. You may find that she plays the ukulele, dances to Hip Hop of the year 2000, or uses her external voice. Connect with Mary Alice on LinkedIn: and read more articles about studying abroad that she wrote at:

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