Seeing the world made me understand South Africa better

2019-04-26 16:14
Keamogetswe Pitsi

Keamogetswe Pitsi

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Name: Keamogetswe Pitsi 

Age: 28

Occupation: Brand consultant 

My name is Keamogetswe Pitsi and I lived abroad in Wolfsburg Germany for almost 10 months on a work assignment. I have only arrived back from South Africa on Sunday, 7 April 2019. I am originally from Hammanskraal, a township in Pretoria. 

Throughout my whole life I wanted to work abroad and go on adventures to the different places I read about in books. I pursued this goal throughout my career in the automotive industry. I once got accepted to Leeds University to study for my Master's but I could never afford to go. Last year in June I was selected for an exchange program and although I did hesitate I eventually packed my bags and went anyway. 

To sum up my experience, living and working abroad as a young black professional is tough, painful and lonely. However it is a necessary experience that can do this country, government and the private sector a lot more good than given credit for. 

Whilst living abroad I learned about the history of WW2 in Berlin, I witnessed a refugee camp in Paris, and had conversations with business owners on an island in Greece. These experiences taught me new levels of perseverance and strength that I never knew I had. It gave me experiential knowledge of different types of economies and grew in me a compassion and empathy for people who have been displaced by war or by career ambitions. Surviving in a culture that is a complete contrast to the one I grew up in South Africa also challenged me to question my values, priorities and my contribution to my society. 

I honestly believe that we need to encourage more South Africans to go live abroad. Particularly young black students and professionals. When I picture the kind of people that might be running the country in 20 years, I hope it is people who have experienced living in a crime free neighbourhood (and gets why it needs to be seriously addressed in SA), or who understand a different context of the effects of racism and exclusion on the growth of society. We need more people who have seen township tourism function and are overall more encouraged to invest and legitimise it for this country. Please note that I wrote "live"; it is one thing to be a tourist for a few days, it is another to be completely immersed in life on a new continent.

Please do not take this the wrong way, I am not saying that it is "better" to live abroad. I do not believe that there is anything such as a better country to live in. All of them essentially have their flaws and challenges. However gaining knowledge and experience that is outside of our cultural comfort zones is a great teacher.

I came back home, some will choose not to. But I am convinced you will have more coming back to do better by South Africa, but they need the opportunities to go, I realised that there are just not enough of them.

I have private blog about my experiences, my article on "Afro in the room" which explores the evolution of black identities (mine in particular) may be of interest to you. 

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