If someone told me a couple of years ago that I would be traveling to Africa, I probably would have thought they had lost their mind.
Depictions of the magnitude of xenophobic attacks, danger, and hunger in countries like Ethiopia, Zimbabwe, and South Africa deterred my interest in the continent.
But as a realist, I could not let the negative media images deter me from a land full of history and culture.
After I graduated I decided I would not be afraid of the unknown, and embark on a wonderful opportunity to visit to the motherland.
It is easy to decide to study in other countries like Japan, London or even Ireland.
But it is hard to imagine any other place in the world that would have provided me with a cultural experience like Africa.
Guidance from Florida A&M University’s International study abroad advisers helped me discover the right program for me.
Summer 2008 was the beginning of an international social work course, the course entailed three weeks of class work online and three weeks in the country.
Choosing to study abroad this past summer was one of the best decisions I have ever made.
The opportunity to learn about different cultures, languages and people, helped broaden my perspective of society from an international aspect.
There is a whole other world out there, so why pass up on an opportunity to experience it?
While studying abroad in South Africa, I traveled throughout the country.
The first city I traveled to in South Africa was a touristy spot called Cape Town and then to the Zulu land of Durban.
The landscape of both cities was not only historical, but also breathtaking.
Clear views of tall mountains, crystal blue oceans and the infamous “Big Five” animals of the safari.
You have not lived until you have come face to face with a buffalo and a giant elephant or seen rambunctious baboons jumping out of trees in order to strategically steal your lunch.
Learning about the Zulu culture and the indigenous people of Africa has helped me to better understand my own culture and values.
Although Africa is located thousands of miles from America, we are closer than we think.
From their style of music to hairstyles, I could really understand how more similar we are than different.
I must admit it was disappointing to find out that I could have paid 140R ($20 U.S.) for a hairstyle that I paid over a $100 dollars for in the United States.
Next time, I will be looking in the South African yellow pages for my hair appointment!
As a black woman, I feel that blacks often tend to be afraid to experience the unknown, which is one of the reasons why we continue to be closed off from new experiences available to us through programs like studying abroad.
Every college student should take the chance to explore study abroad opportunities, especially black students.
Aisha Radford is a first year graduate broadcast journalism student from Miami. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org