Nikala Pieroni - 2014 Program Participant

Sandboarding in the desert in Swakopmund, Namibia

Sand boarding in Swakopmund, Namibia.

What attracted you to the idea of study abroad?

I am an International Development major, so going abroad is very important for understanding my studies. But, it was about more than just that. Studying abroad is an opportunity it would seem hard to pass up no matter what I was interested in studying. It is truly a rare opportunity to get to move your life across the world for a few months with few consequences like having to find a job, a place to live, etc. It also came at this time where I was excited to feel the relatively new independence that college brings, and a strong feeling to see as much of the world as I can while I'm young. I think mostly I was just excited to go and learn about a culture so different than my own, and that's what really drew me to not only going somewhere, but going somewhere far from the world that I have grown up in.

Why did you choose the CGE Southern Africa program?

The program I went on is very tailored towards my minor. The courses within the program provided an in depth look at Namibia and South Africa's development in things like politics, environment, and culture, which is very similar to what I study at Clark University, but with a national approach instead of an international one. I wanted to be able to study what I loved, the development of a country, while doing it in an experiential way.

The other aspect of study abroad that this program provided in full was to travel and see as much as I could. The program itself really provides that with trips to Cape Town, Johannesburg, and places within Namibia. The combination of classes that fit for me and the traveling made this program seem like the perfect choice.

Nelson Mandela statue in Johannesburg, South Africa

Nikala and the Fall 2014 CGE group in from of a Nelson Mandela statue in Johannesburg, South Africa.

What makes the CGE Southern Africa program particularly interesting?

This program takes you so far beyond an average university. I think it's the traveling that really adds something special to this program. I was able to visit four cities, two countries, and go on a safari as part of the program, and when we were just in Windhoek having classes we would often have speakers or go on field trips; there was always something new happening which was really cool. All of this ensured that we were seeing multiple angles of the cultures within Southern Africa, and as many people as we could within those cultures. Instead of just sitting around and hearing professors explain it in class, we were seeing it with our own eyes.

What is the best part about your program?

I don't know that I could pick one best part. We did so much it does not seem fair to put one experience over another. Even though a lot of the things we did were challenging, most of the experiences were really valuable for my growth and education. One of the best parts is all of the places you are able to explore. Getting to go from Etosha to Cape Town provided so much rich cultural understanding that I truly appreciated.

Study abroad student with local host family in northern Namibia

Nikala with her host family during the CGE rural one week homestay in northern Namibia.

If you could do it all again, what would you do differently?

I would have tried to hang out with Namibians a bit more than I did. You live and travel with the same people who are on your program the whole time, so it is easy to get so close to the other Americans that it's hard to break out of the bubble. I met a ton of interesting people living in Namibia, but I wish that I had hung out with them just a bit more than I did.

Have you experienced any re-entry shock since returning to the U.S.?

I am pretty good at adapting, so it wasn't hard to get back into life here, but there were certainly moments that made me feel very strange coming back. I think the main thing though is that I just see things a little differently. I now pay more attention to international politics, I think about inequality in the U.S. and abroad a lot more, and I just have a new perspective on the world in general.