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Getting to Know Yourself Abroad

Imagine a group of people is getting to know you during your study abroad program’s orientation. You’ve gotten past the formalities, gotten to opening narrative stories, little jokes. You have everyone on board with you until you finish your last story with the words, “Rectum? Damn near killed ‘em!” You then realize only you’re laughing. You make a quiet comment and wait for someone else to pick up the conversation.

Ouch. What happened back there? Humor happened. I believe a person’s sense of humor resists change from new environments more so than other aspects of personality. This explains one of the reasons I’m excited about studying abroad in South Africa. I want to find out more about myself, as egotistical as that might sound, because after twenty years, I don’t know that much. I know I will learn valuable lessons from the unique mixture of people and history found in South Africa. But I will learn the most about myself by observing what my own sense of humor can find in a completely new, complex world. If I come back from Cape Town having laughed a lot, I will have a better sense of who I am regardless of the other internal changes I undergo in different social spaces. If don’t laugh that much, then at least I will know I have a terrible sense of humor.

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