Andrea Solomon-Study Abroad - Carnegie Mellon University

Andrea Solomon

"There's a whole other world that you do not know until you go..."

Meet Andrea Solomon...

Andrea grew up in Georgia and came to Carnegie Mellon to study Ethics, History & Public Policy.  In the summer of 2008, Andrea had a life-changing experience when she studied abroad at Stellenbosch University in Stellenbosch, South Africa.

Before She Went

Before she went abroad, Andrea expected to be immersed into the culture of South Africa as much as possible.  She hoped to walk away with a better understanding of South African history and greater cultural awareness.

Arrival to South Africa

As Andrea drove from the airport to the university, she saw small towns that reminded her of things that she had only seen on television.  She says that this experience really "opened her up to reality."  When she arrived at the university, she was surprised to see that the town was very much a "college town." 

Living in South Africa

Andrea's eyes were opened to new things of the world while living in South Afric.  When she visited the zoo, she saw animals that she had never seen.  She had the opportunity to taste food that she's never tasted.  Overall, studying abroad helped Andrea to see more of life!

Andrea met a lot of people on her study abroad experience.  She said that building close connections to people helped her transition and feel more comfortable as an international student.  Like many students, Andrea reported that the most challenging part of the experience was the language barrier.  She found learning about her new cultural surroundings sometimes challenging and yet incredibly rewarding.

As a black woman, Andrea experienced some other challenges that her peers studying abroad might not.  "I was stopped at customs and asked if I were visiting family or friends and what I was doing in South Africa... I responded that I was studying, like everyone else there."  Andrea reports that these challenges helped her to develop a better understanding of her values, beliefs, and identity.

Looking Back on Her Experience...

When she returned to the United States, Andrea found herself feeling as though people took so many things in life for granted.  Many people seemed unappreciative of the things they have.  This understanding helped her to be more aware of herself in the world around her as well as more grateful of what she's been given in life. 

Andrea also found that she doesn't stress out as much as she did before she studied abroad.  She sees herself as being calmer and not "sweating the small stuff."  Andrea said that studying abroad was the most enjoyable experience of her life.  She says it was joyful and rejuvenating.  It helped her to see that education is important, but that education is more than just books.  She now sees the need to really experience life.

When talking about her sense of purpose and meaning, Andrea says that studying abroad has helped her to see herself as a citizen of the world.  She identifies one of her life goals as helping to make others' lives better in any way possible.  Her best advice to someone who is thinking about studying abroad comes from Randy Pausch's The Last Lecture, "When you're at the end of your life, you don't regret the things that you did.  You regret the things that you didn't do... Have an amazing time!"

Andrea Solomon

Andrea Solomon
Ethics, History, and Public Policy
Stellenbosch, South Africa
Summer 2008