A new phase...
By Elsa Nidlle, 26, Johannesburg
Coming to South Africa as a foreign student was not easy. From the emotional breakdown of having to leave my family for the first time at 18 years old to the fact that I had no idea of what I was getting into, made the situation extremely complicated. A small part of me was excited because I knew I was starting a whole new phase of my life. I just did not know what to expect! To make things worse, there was this whole perception from people around me that “South Africa was just this horrible, dangerous and xenophobic place”. My mom’s friend’s daughter had just come back and she decided to share her horrible experience with everyone around her, including me. She even went on to try to persuade me to change my mind! I guess it was already too late. The period before my departure was dramatic, but I looked forward to what South Africa had in store for me.
When I arrived in Johannesburg, my first experience was so overwhelming. The culture, languages and lifestyle were totally different from back home. I started school at Midrand Graduate Institute which is now Pearson Institute. I found it very difficult to interact with classmates and people around me. I was an introvert and I kept to myself most of the time. I remember getting lost in taxis several times just because I could not say “short left” or “after the robot”. I even got lost in malls and on the school campus. The few times I tried to make friends, I just couldn’t because of language barriers.
Eventually, I started getting used to the environment and the people around me. Things started unfolding and I realised that the people here were not bad at all. I recall a couple of times I was lost and needed directions and taxi drivers were of great help. I made friends at school and this totally changed my perception of the people and the place. People around me were always willing to help even if they didn’t know me. My overall experience was very overwhelming at the beginning, but I finally got a hang of the way things are done in Johannesburg. I even felt comfortable living in other cities like Cape Town and Durban with no fear, whatsoever. This also strengthened me emotionally and psychologically, and now I believe I am able to fit into any environment – not only in South Africa but around the world.
A lesson to those out there who struggle to fit into any environment, be it at work, home, church, school, sports team, social groups: Never let perceptions cloud your judgement of either a person, group of people or an environment! Learn to experience something before judging.
Taking risks is always a part of life and if you do not learn to speak up and take up space, then you will always be trapped in your own skin.
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