If there is anything I have come to truly understand during my pre-departure process it is the commonly used statement “patience is a virtue.” Although my excitement for my semester in Cape Town, South Africa has been continuously growing, so have the pre-departure tasks and responsibilities. My patience has been continuously tested over the past few months through the process of obtaining my student visa, finalizing travel details, and planning for my actual time abroad.
Due to the length of my stay in South Africa I was required to obtain a student visa from the South African consulate in Chicago. There were about eleven documents that were required to obtain this visa. Although I began collecting these documents in mid-April, I ran into a few set backs and did not receive the visa until three days before my anticipated departure. The largest lessons I took away from this experience are to begin obtaining the required documents as soon as possible and to diligently track their progress (whether you are waiting for your background check, a medical report, or your passport with the attached visa).
Aside from the stress of obtaining the proper documentation for my stay, securing my travel plans also tested my patience. As can be imagined, the flights to South Africa are very long. Most travel days span between 36 and 48 hours. I was lucky enough to find an efficient set of flights with a total travel time of only 28 hours. However, three days before departure this trip was moved back an entire day making me arrive in Cape Town a day later than required by the program provider, CIEE. I rebooked my flight and arrived at the airport on the scheduled departure date. Only an hour before my scheduled departure time we were notified that the plane had been delayed and I was going to miss my connection. The airline had no choice but to rebook me. Normally, this situation would have caused me major anxiety due to my routine and detail orientated personality. However I took this situation as part of my experience and remained calm. My collected reaction to this stressful situation displayed to me the growth I have already had through this experience.
I am now more excited than ever to begin my semester in Cape Town! Many aspects of my stay are still unknown but again I have tried to frame this normally stressful aspect as a positive part of the study abroad experience.