Bryan School student Julian Weichel studied abroad in Cape Town, South Africa. Julian, a junior at UNCG, selected the University of Cape Town so that he could take classes for his Entrepreneurship major. We interviewed him to learn more about his study abroad experience.
Why did you choose to study abroad?
Julian’s family first inspired him to study abroad. Julian’s mother studied at the University of Cape Town when she was in college. Julian’s parents also lived in South Africa during the 70’s and 80’s.
“I wanted to experience a new culture and gain an international perspective of business that future employers are looking for.”
Did you experience culture shock?
“Not at first because I am well-traveled and lived with five other international students, three of whom are from the United States. Since we made the transition together, we tried to help each other out. I started to have slight culture shock when I began living as a local.”
How does the learning experience abroad differ from your experiences at UNCG?
“The South African grading system is similar to the British grading system.” Julian expressed his dislike of this system because of the emphasis on the final exam as a huge percentage of the final grade. However, Julian felt well prepared from the lectures. Students meet for an hour-long lecture three to four times a week. At the end of the week, a student who has already taken the course leads small groups for each of the student’s classes. This student leads group discussion and is a valuable resource for new students struggling with the material.
How do you spend your spare time?
Julian sought out ways to give back to the community while living abroad. “I got involved in a program called Teach Out. Every week I volunteered to work in a township to teach children math and reading. Committing to this outreach program was a real eye-opener. The kids do not have much, but were so eager to learn. I think it’s been such an eye-opening experience to see how the kids live in comparison to how we live in America.” Julian explained that children attend optional Saturday school because they want to learn more. “Learning to live as a local is a tremendously more valuable experience than occupying a classroom seat.”
In addition to getting involved in Teach Out, Julian joined the Yacht Club on campus and has made many international friends. “I had to continuously remind myself that I am not on vacation.”
What is the food like?
“It’s cheap and good, but don’t expect to see Bojangle’s, Biscuitville, or Starbucks.” Julian had to learn to cook. “Luckily I had roommates…they helped me a lot.”
What’s next for you?
Julian’s experience studying abroad in South Africa went so well he is considering a move there permanently. Julian is in the process of making this life-changing decision and is excited to see how his study abroad experience will impact his life in other ways.
Do you have any advice for students interested in studying abroad?
“Make an effort to meet international students on campus, do extensive personal research, and keep an open mind.” Julian found it helpful to watch videos posted by IPC (International Programs Center) and read about the South African culture in his decision making process. “Study abroad not just to make friends, but to learn the culture of your destination and get involved in it.”
Interview and Story Covered by: Sara Clark / Editor: Liz Ingold
Photo by: Payne Morgan