How to Make the Most of a Study Abroad Experience with Jesse Flath

Jesse Flath is a Junior from Escanaba, Michigan double majoring in Neuroscience and Biomedical Science and minoring in Psychology. Flath studied abroad in Stellenbosch, South Africa, located about 40 minutes East of Cape Town. She was in South Africa from mid-July to late December. While her classes ended mid-November, Flath decided to stick around in South Africa to explore with her new friends. While not every study abroad experience will be the same, Flath answered a few questions that might help you plan out your study abroad trip.

What types of classes did you take?

Despite being a science major, I was able to take classes mostly relating to South Africa. It was very interesting to able to learn about a culture while living in the midst of it. The classes I found were much more difficult in content but more relaxed than at CMU.

Did you travel on weekends?

On weekends I did not do much traveling but instead spent time exploring around me. I did head to Cape Town for a few weekends with my friends to enjoy the beach and tourist destinations. Mostly, however, I enjoyed relaxing on the weekends and spending time with my friends.

What did you do after your classes ended?

My exams ended November 13th and I spent the time from that date until December 22nd, when I flew home, traveling. I started on the West coast and rented a car with my new International friends and we drove up to the Kalahari and then all the way through the country to the East coast. I got to see many diverse and beautiful things all throughout the country that I lived in.

How did you decide how long to stay?

Originally, I had a flight booked to get home before Thanksgiving. I decided while I was there that I was not ready to leave. I loved every minute of my time and wanted to explore more. I then ended up talking to other friends who were feeling the same way and we planned our lovely trip!

Who did you travel with?

I traveled mostly with my international friends. When you study abroad, you most likely will participate in an orientation program specifically for international students. This way, you will find friends that are experiencing the same emotions of excitement and fear as you first navigate your way through your foreign country. I stuck with these friends through the duration of the semester and got to travel with them to make our friendship even stronger. I cannot wait for the opportunity to fly to Germany to visit them!

How did you manage your finances?

Studying abroad may seem like a daunting task financially. However, planning out a budget can be extremely useful. I arrived and decided to wait three weeks before I made a finance plan so I could gauge the average amount I would be spending.

Do you have any advice for students heading out on Study Abroad soon?

I have three pieces of advice:

  1. Pack minimally, it is annoying to lug around tons of stuff and you definitely will want to bring stuff home!

  2. Remind yourself to try new things, overall you will regret the chances you don’t take rather than the ones you do.

  3. BE SO EXCITED TO HAVE THE BEST TIME OF YOUR LIFE.

If you have any interest in studying abroad, visit CMU’s study abroad website and fill out an advising questionnaire, or stop by Ronan 330 to speak to an advisor. Study 101 sessions are available in Ronan 344 on Mondays at 11, Wednesdays at 3:30, and Thursdays at 2.