Center for International Programs - Study Abroad

Student Profile: Grace Durkin- Marquette University, South Africa



Major(s): Psychology        

Minor(s): None       

Abroad Program: Marquette University

Where:South Africa Cape Town

When(Semester & Year): Spring Semester 2013   

Favorite Course: The Psychology of Social Oppression   

Highlight: Mid-Semester trip to the Eastern Cape of South Africa      

Best Excursion: Bungee Jumping of the Worlds highest bungee bridge      

Favorite Dish: No favorite dish but I loved all the fresh and cheap produce!

Least Favorite Dish: Tripe        

Next Destination: Hopefully Morocco or Greece

What did you learn to love about the culture(s)?

Other Cultures are beautiful. There are inspired, different, colorful, and simply amazing. Experiencing the collectivistic cultures throughout South Africa really made me think and challenge the way of life many of us tend to live here in the United States. Originally I found that relaxed, slow paced, way of life to be frustrating and I simply didn’t understand it. But after about a month I began to understand the beauty in it. The people in South Africa valued communication, and human interaction over getting things done in the fastest more cost effective way. Will this slow down their growth as a country, maybe? But does that really matter? The way of life in South Africa really challenged me to think about what was most important in life.

How did the location enhance your academic experience?

Cape Town is the most beautiful city in the world. Clear blue skies, warm air, and beautiful wind, and three of the most amazing mountains in sight no matter what direction you’re facing. There are people of all colors and shapes and there is a rich entrenched history. The classes I took while in Cape Town would not have been as meaningful had I not been at that exact location. Community development and social oppression took on a deeper meaning in the classroom because there were examples of each all around me during my time in Cape Town. The things I was learning in the classroom directly related to the service I was doing in the townships.

How has this experience changed you?

I think it is incorrect for anyone to say that after a study abroad experience that they will return home a changed person. That being said, I think I learned things about myself that I never knew before. There are things in that Cape Town taught me that I hope to continue to work into my personhood. Cape Town challenged me in so many ways and I hope that returning home and when I return to my daily routine I can continue to challenge myself in the same way. I feel that I have learned a deeper sense of compassion for others. I had tolerance prior to leaving for Cape Town but tolerance isn’t the answer to many of the world’s problems but I believe that true compassion for others is.

What was one fear you had before going? Would you have this same fear if you were going to study abroad again? Why or why not?

Prior to leaving for South Africa I was VERY nervous about crime, violence, and rape in South Africa. But upon arriving I was pleasantly challenged by this fear. All the people I encountered during my time were loving, generous, caring, and to say that least amazing. The ideas we have about Africa as skewed by the media. All that we know as Americans is what we see in the newspaper. Clicking on the Africa button on the New York Times website the news stories shown will be about countries fighting for their independence (thus violence), wild animals (which you only see on Safari), and from time to time an uplifting beautiful story about Africa. The stories we are exposed to allow us to believe that Africa is this wild, violent, rabid place; but it isn’t. I don’t mean to undercut the importance of staying in groups and taking extra safety precautions because those are all vital to someone’s importance. But, I would never want someone not to choose this experience because of a fear of the danger of South Africa.