Greetings and Fears

Hello! My name is Justin Weeks and I am studying in South Africa at the University of Cape Town (UCT). In the United States, I am a junior at the University of South Carolina studying marine science and biology. I am honored to be a Gilman Writing Correspondent for the spring of 2020 and I look forward to telling you more about one of the most beautiful cities on the planet! First, I would like to tell you about how I felt before this journey began. I only felt it a few days before departure, a feeling of overwhelming dread that made me question every decision I had made for the past year. I was sitting in my living room with my clothes scattered across every piece of furniture, challenged with the task of consolidating to two 50 pound suitcases. I had procrastinated on packing for days until I had completed every other pre-departure task possible. Sitting there on the floor, I came to the realization that what I had been working towards for months was about to finally come to fruition. The semester before going abroad for me was easily the most difficult I had faced because of how complex a process it was but this complexity allowed me to distract myself up until this moment in my living room where I looked down to see my hands uncontrollably shaking with no clear explanation as to why. I believe that the difficulty with studying abroad for many is how outside of your comfort zone it forces you to be with no way of retreat to the familiarity many are accustomed to if things get rough. I had never done any significant traveling outside of the United States, but the fact that I would be 8,119 miles away from home never scared me until that moment. I sat down and realized I wouldn’t be seeing my family or friends for five months and that I would be starting with a completely clean slate. This is an exciting aspect of studying abroad but the pressure of starting fresh and not knowing anyone can be crushing. I was worried about not making friends who would be up to explore this wonderful city with me and since UCT is the number one ranked university on the continent of Africa, I was worried about how difficult the courses could be. Now, about a month into the program, I realize that most people here had the same fears. It is normal to be scared of something most people don’t do. The wonderful thing about this opportunity is that it is literally what you make of it. You have to be open; You have to take the extra steps to reach out to people and create relationships, and you pretty much have to be up for anything.

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