The American Experience 8 NEW!!
Lauren Vankeirsbilck was a BA 2 student who went on exchange to Furman University in South Carolina, USA during the second semester of 2011.
Getting onto the plane heading to South Carolina, America was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. So many things were racing through my mind. I was leaving behind my friends and family for a new university, a new culture - pretty much a new world. I was overcome with nerves and was afraid that I would not be able to relate to a single person there. Surprisingly, something that was even harder than that moment in my life, was the moment I landed back in Johannesburg. I did not want to come back home. The people I met at Furman University became my new family, my new friends. They were interested in learning all about my culture and were in absolute awe of my accent. I found the people, of Furman University, to be very similar to us South Africans. They were extremely friendly and were always willing to help in any situation. The landscape was wide and open, much like South Africa. I remember the first week I got there my parents asked if I felt different. I didn’t. I felt like I was at home.
Furman is not only comprised of beautiful people but the University itself was beautiful with huge parks and running lakes. My roommates became my best friends, and I travelled to their houses to spend time with their families over the breaks. I experienced thanksgiving for the first time in a small-town in Columbia. I shot a pistol, deep-fried a turkey and ate deer for the first time that holiday. It was an experience I would never forget. I was lucky enough to go to one of the world’s best theme parks in Ohio known as “Cedar Point”. I rode the highest rollercoaster’s in the world and ate all the candy possible. Halloween is something the Americans go crazy over and in true Halloween spirit my friends took me to Netherworld, which is a huge workshop which has been transformed into your worst nightmare.
One aspect of America that I absolutely loved was the sororities and fraternities. These are social groups that hold events and are made to bring people with the same interests closer together. I was roommates with three girls that were in a sorority called Kappa Kappa Gamma. They took me to functions with themes such as “Western Date Night”. I line danced the entire night to country music and won a huge blow-up Halloween doll in a dancing competition. Another memorable function was the “KKG Rave” where you have to dress in bright colours and be covered in glow sticks.
Even though I have only depicted a couple of memories, not a single day goes by where I don’t say, “in America I did….”. It was honestly the best experience of my life and if I had the opportunity I would do it all again. I have learnt so much through the entire process and have acquired a huge appreciation for my country and its people. My advice would be that every single person should experience something like this in order to appreciate and grow. As the southerner’s would say: “Y’all need to grab this experience, before it gets away!”