I’m unusually calm as I am watching my clock turn closer and closer to my departure from my mom’s apartment. It has been such a strange couple of liminal years as I have attempted to figure out where it is that I truly call “home”. This break has been full of family and friends (and lots of roadtrips); and for that, I am so extremely grateful. But there is something suddenly peaceful about the idea of moving to a different country where I know virtually no one for the next 5-6 months…
I first traveled to South Africa with my family seven years ago. I remember waking up and feeling slightly uncomfortable as I heard an announcement come over the speakers; “we would like to wish Miss Abigail Evans a very happy 13th birthday”. I remember feeling slightly mortified but moreover like I was on the brink of a life-changing adventure.
My mom’s parents (Nana and Pawpaw) hold South Africa very dear in their heart as it used to be a place of regular visits while my grandfather was President of Albion College. When we returned along their side, we were anticipating a trip that would open our eyes in a different way – and it did. We visited Johannesburg, Cape Town, Robbens Island; we went on safari, saw the beautiful landscapes of South Africa; we saw penguins, seals, lions, elephants and more. But what left the greatest impression on me was the people. I remember the accents, the faces, the dances, the songs. It was an experience that changed my life.
Since that trip I have never looked at the world the same way. The faces of children asking us for food stuck with me, and in high school I began a life of service. Now, I do not mean to say this as a “booster” – I do not mean to say that simply “South Africa changed my life”. What I mean to point out, is that South Africa spoke to a piece of me which already existed but was suddenly charged to grow. I began to pursue more internationally focused interests and was lucky enough to have the opportunities to travel outside the United States to other countries that just “clicked” in a way.
Jump ahead 3 years and we are at the present me. I am an college junior who’s life was shaken up a lot in the past few years. This time last year, I had just overcome some hard trials of health and found myself faced with the opportunity to choose a destination where I could go – away from all of the seemingly “messy” things in my life. One of the reasons I chose South Africa was because of my initial visit, and the fact that it just “clicked” with what I had come to really love about my college experience. Coming to Hobart and William Smith, I knew that I had been drawn to the school based off of its “global citizenship” focus, and its emphasis on “service learning”. Whether or not I actually knew what that meant at that point in my life – I’m not sure. But what I do know now, is that I am obsessed with my school. My time at HWS has pushed me and stretched me in ways that I never knew, and I have really come to call Geneva, NY my “home”.
So I’m off. Leaving behind a semester at HWS that would have been comfortable in many ways. I’m leaving behind my younger brother who is my best friend and also facing some life changing decisions about his future academic years, and my kitten (who most of you know as more of a cat these days). But it is in preparing this morning, that I realize – I really am not leaving anything behind. I am carrying it all with me. Some of the things I have struggled with in the past few years has numbed me in ways that I really hate. I am going to South Africa for me. Which feels foreign, but I know is necessary. People keep asking me “Why South Africa?” and the answer is – I’m not sure I want to know yet. I know I want to breathe and feel life, and not just move through the motions – so I am going. But my goal is to be able to say “I am so glad I went to South Africa because ______”.
I cannot wait for all that this adventure will bring. I am ready. I am breathing. And I need to go make copies of my passport….
Love to you all! I’ll write again when I arrive!!