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As I sit on the plane leaving Cape Town and Gordon’s Bay, I’m fighting back tears. Tears of sadness that newfound friendships must continue from a distance with no knowing when we will see each other, and tears for the end of my time in this beautiful country. But of course, there are tears of joy for the pure and overwhelming humility I feel for having such an opportunity in the first place.

I struggle to begin to explain how this trip has made me feel and how it has changed me. I wanted to take advantage of an opportunity presented when I applied for this program. I wanted to reach past my comfort zone, go head first into something that scared me and put me in situations that would make me uncomfortable. I wanted to face my timidness head on. Too often I have sat in my comfort zone, being content with monotony and familiarity. I have been afraid to reach past, to expose myself and allow myself to not care about being judged or watched. I wanted to be so invested in others and my work that I would not have time to think or care about such things. Judgment comes from one’s own perspective: how the individual person views, interprets, and feels things should be. People’s perspectives depend on so many factors that are out of my own control, and allowing judgment from others to impact my own actions and beliefs is unhelpful and counteractive to my own growth. This trip has reiterated and emphasized the immaturity of judging and assuming, especially when it comes to culture and what we don’t know or understand.

“My time here has helped me to grow in every facet of who I am. I have become more open-minded, more accepting, and more inquisitive. I now have wanderlust. I want travel to learn, experience, and to grow more. There is no substitute for exposure.”

We become biased to the world when we make assumptions and implications while being uninformed. I will never be able to fully understand how someone else’s culture works and where their traditions stem from, but it is not my place to make uneducated assumptions. It is my job to ask questions, to learn, and to accept such things whether I agree with them or not. It is not my place to critique what I think is right or wrong because those definitions are subjective. Judging and forming opinions is part of our human nature and instinct. However, being misguided and prejudiced in those judgments is problematic and denies the opportunity for growth.

My time here has helped me to grow in every facet of who I am. I have become more open-minded, more accepting, and more inquisitive. I now have wanderlust. I want travel to learn, experience, and to grow more. There is no substitute for exposure. It is one thing to read or hear about a place or a people, but interactions teach more than any lecture or words on a page. I am overwhelmed by the people I have met, the stories I have heard, and the interactions that have changed me forever.

I am forever grateful for the people that have allowed me to experience something so incredible. I am so thankful for those that I got to share this experience with. They have taught me to be a good person not just when it may be convenient or easy, but always. There is no such thing as an extra mile when it comes to kindness because it has no boundaries or end point. They have taught me to have fun and appreciate the little things. They have taught me patience, teamwork, and acceptance. I am sad that some moments and memories will slowly slip as time passes. I wish I could feel this amount of joy and bliss always. It is strange how so much joy can simultaneously cause me to feel sadness because I want that joy to be infinite. But as time goes on and I look back on the memories and pictures I have, I’ll remember that joy and smile.

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