As international students we are constantly reminded of the fact that some time in our stay abroad, we will experience a period of time called the “hostility phase.” In this phase, we will be so home-sick and so culture-shocked that all we will want to do in retreat into our rooms, listen to the saddest music, wish teleportation existed.

My “hostility phase” started suddenly and very unexpectedly. You could say it was because of an external factor. I was going through a few very difficult, very depressing days.

All I could think of was wanting to go back home. I wanted to leave this humidity and sticky weather behind. I wanted to let go of all my brand new friendships. I wanted to return to where braaivleis (South African barbeque), Afrikaans (my native language), and my bloodfamily are.

I wanted to.

But then my Niner Nation family stepped in. I have never been so supported. People that I have never even met and people I do not know, where there for me. My fellow international students (henceforth known as “my family”) were the true gems. Seeing as we are all in the same boat, they knew exactly what to say and do.

I was home –well, my home away from my South African home.

Finding friends, a new family, at UNC Charlotte has made the transition much smoother. Photo by Corlene Beukes

To make things even better, as internationals we are learning about each other’s cultures, slang and ways of thinking, so we decided to have one evening per culture represented in our little group of friends. My night was so stressful because not only have I once set our oven back home on fire, but I am also the prime example for “she can burn water.” Let’s just say, I cannot cook.

So my sister, who is an amazing cook, sent me very detailed voice notes on how to make my favorite South African foods –Bobotie and Malva pudding.

Bobotie consists of ground beef, spices and fruit. Malva pudding is a dessert that, in my opinion, everyone in the world should try once, because that is all it takes to fall in love with it.

I made the meal and, much to my surprise, it came out amazing. I was extremely proud of myself, and so happy that my guinea pigs (the family) enjoyed it thoroughly.

It is tough being so far away from home. It is tough to know that you are only going to see your family after New Year’s. It is tough to realize that they are missing you. It is tough to be an exchange student –studying in a language that is not your first language, being around complete strangers, relying on others.

Still, the experiences, the friends, the cultures, everything you experience as an exchange student is more than enough to make one realize that this is what life is. Life is dark and light times intertwined, no matter where you are –all you have to do is find your home away from home.

Thank you to my home-away-from-home-family.


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