As I sit in my room, during the first week of classes, I cannot stop thinking of all the incredible memories that were made on my trip abroad this past summer! I had the wonderful opportunity to spend a month of my summer in Pietarmaritzburg, South Africa. The primary goal of the trip was to collaborate on a practical engineering project with students of the University of Kwazulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg. Along with the project, we got to experience a brand new culture and see parts of the world that many people miss out on in their lifetime.
During the weeks we spent the days at the schools Agricultural Engineering workshop working on our projects. The workshop was way more then I ever expected. There was everything from lathes, saws, welding machines, and multiple types of milling machines. Going into the trip I had absolutely no workshop experience in my life. Everything there was new to me, and so I was able to learn many new useful skills that will last a lifetime. Between us there where two different projects. The one I specifically worked on was a mechanism to cut, trim, and plant eucalyptus trees. Eucalyptus is a tree that is widely planted in South Africa, and provides a good income for the country. Seeing the transformation of the project was a very rewarding experience just in its self. It went from a few designs and theories on paper to a fully moving conveyor belt that had working blades.
Being able to work with students in another country was something that many people will never experience. Many times after spending a days work on our projects, we would spend time with our partners and got to see the lifestyle they live. We even had the opportunity to have a braii, which is the Afrikaans word for barbecue. If you ever have a chance to go to South Africa make sure to have a braii, and become friends with some South Africans. From my experience all the locals were very welcoming and excited to have visitors from another country. The best part of being in the country for 4 weeks, we were able to see more of how they lived, then just touring the country for the sights.
Easily the best part of the whole adventure was our weekend trips. The first weekend we were able to go swimming in the Indian Ocean at umhlanga rocks near durban, and zip lining in the Karkloof forest. Ziplining was quite the experience. Zipping down ropes at speeds up to 50 mph, you could see for miles and fly with the birds. Our second weekend we visited two game reserves and saw so many beautiful animals. For four days we went on morning and afternoon drive to see as many animals as possible. Being able to see the things you normally would only see in movies and zoos was invigorating. We even had the thrill of an Elephant charging us! Finally, the last weekend of our trip we traveled to Injusuthi in the Drakensburg Mountains. Here I was able to see some of the most beautiful landscapes in my life. It included many river valleys that extending into peaks that reached up to 11,424 ft. Between the 3 days of hiking we easily walked ten miles. As amazing as seeing elephants, zebras, and rhinos in the wild was. I personally enjoyed the hiking more. There is nothing better then walking through huge mountains and seeing for miles!
This has easily been one of the best experiences I have had in my life and will remember it till the day I die. It even has now sparked my interest to continue traveling the world and to want to study abroad for a full semester now. Seeing new places and ways of life makes you reflect on the life you have, as well as brings friendships that cannot be beaten. Thanks you so much to aces for helping put together this trip. I hope that everyone reading this enjoyed hearing my adventures abroad. Cheers!
Agricultural and Biological Engineering ’16