Jordan Corp - 2012 Program Participant

How did you come to apply for a study abroad program?

I had never been outside the country before and originally paid no attention to the study abroad opportunities in front of me. I assumed that studying abroad was not financially feasible for me as a student putting himself through school. As I looked in to the programs a bit more, I gradually discovered that several of my initial impressions were wrong and that it was in fact a possibility. It was an honest life goal of mine to get to Cape Town, South Africa and IES Abroad made this goal a reality.

Why did you choose IES Abroad for your international program?

IES Abroad was one of only two study abroad organizations that my home university had a relationship with in Cape Town. After weighing my options, IES was without a doubt the better of the two, and it only provided more comfort knowing that they were based out of Chicago.

What was your favorite part about South Africa?

Aside from having the largest population of Great White Sharks in the world (Seal Island), the country's people and history were incredibly inspiring. The people of South Africa are happy, optimistic, and hopeful despite the all-too-common circumstances of extreme poverty and injustice. The aftermath of Apartheid has not provided many more liberties than the movement itself. With eleven native languages, the country refers to itself as the Rainbow Nation and is extremely welcoming to outsiders.

What are some highlights of the IES program in Cape Town?

The program has an office in the heart of campus, encourages a balance of direct enrollment and your choice of a handful of program-provided courses, and organizes a wide array of field trips and service learning experiences.

How accessible was local staff support throughout the program?

The program director, Naomi Claassen, always abides by an open door policy. She was an exceptional mentor, opening my eyes to several “off-the-beaten-path” destinations and opportunities.

What's one thing you wish you would have done differently? 

As silly as it sounds, I wish I would have followed through with my involvement in an underwater diving club - one of several engaging UCT campus organizations.

What was everyday life like as a student in Cape Town?

I really appreciated the fact that our housing accommodations were so close to campus. Waking up and walking to class was something I was never able to experience as a commuter of my home university. Once on campus there was always the option to visit the IES office between classes - an exclusive location that offered anything from computer access to advice on how to best spend your weekend.

Upon finishing class there was always an abundance of activities on campus; IES Abroad promised to front the cost for involvement in up to three campus organizations. Finally, returning home was just as much a treat as anything else. I thoroughly enjoyed the company of my fellow program participants and IES made it easy to balance independence with socialization by scattering the majority of us throughout the same apartment complex.

What was your favorite extracurricular activity?

I went to Cape Town as a huge shark nerd. While in South Africa I was able to set up cage diving ventures at Seal Island (Simon's Town) and Dyer Island (Gansbaai). A close second was our safari at Kruger National Park (just North of Johannesburg). Check out the YouTube video called 'Battle at Kruger'. Cage diving was not an IES-sponsored activity but the safari was!

What type of accommodation did you have? What did you like best about it? 

IES Cape Town offered two options for housing. As I mentioned above, the majority of us were scattered throughout an apartment complex; however, a handful of us were stationed at a house. The house served to be a very convenient meeting place for the group and was always the best place for shared dinners, board games, and bonding out on the porch.

Now that you're home, how has your experience in Cape Town changed your life?

I entered the program not knowing a single person and left with great friends - one of which was a roommate in Chicago two years later. Several other friends open their doors for overnight stays and make road trips in the US easier and more affordable than most would ever imagine. My time abroad has changed the way I approach others similar to how it has altered my career aspirations. Let's just say that the stereotypes of study abroad being a life-changing experience are far from lies. If you aren't seeking change in the life around you, it's best you reconsider your intentions of studying abroad.