Alexis Sweeney
Alexis Sweeney
South Africa, 2021
My name is Lexi Sweeney, and I am so excited for this 5 month journey in Cape Town, South Africa! I will be a social work intern at School of Hope, a school for vulnerable youth where I will help facilitate group therapy, individual therapeutic sessions, and social/emotional educational sessions. Read More About Alexis →

Just the Beginning

8 days. In just 8 days I will embark on this new journey to Cape Town, South Africa.

About two years ago, I made the decision to go on a Maymester to South Africa. At the point of that decision, I knew very little about South Africa, I knew no one going, and I truly didn’t even know why I wanted to go. All I knew was what a friend who had gone on that trip a year before said to me when I was casually thinking about studying abroad. He said, “Lexi, you have to go on the South Africa/ Tanzania Maymester- it will change your life in ways I cannot describe. You are someone who is meant to have that experience because it will help you serve others more purposefully and connect with others more deeply.”

Little did I know that those words would lead me to this day- being 8 days away from moving to South Africa for 5/ 6 months.

Picture from study abroad trip to South Africa.

When someone hears about my upcoming journey to South Africa, they then begin asking about what I will be doing and why I chose to do this. My first response is always, “I studied abroad in South Africa and that experience changed my life in ways I cannot describe, but I know I am meant to go back and experience life there; where I will be doing a social work internship at a school for vulnerable youth and at a home for women who have aged out of foster care.”

However, my honest response would be, “I didn’t necessarily choose to do this one specific thing. I chose to begin fulfilling my purpose, and I believe one’s purpose is the intersection between their passion and compassion.” Why don’t I answer honestly? Because any time I have tried to answer honestly, I am met with confusing looks, laughs, or people telling me I am not making a “smart decision”. It can be hard for people to understand why I would choose to move halfway across the world alone to serve a community I did not grow up in and not get paid while doing it. But the reality is that I don’t even know if I can fully explain why, all I know is that this is something I am meant to do. Moving to a new culture all by myself is defiantly going to be hard and not everything is going to go well. I

Just hanging out with some of the greatest kids who are a big part of the reason I am returning to Cape Town. (Picture from when I studied abroad in South Africa)

will make mistakes, there will difficult days, and there will be times I will debate if I made the right decision. Even though I know how hard it might get, even though there are many things to be anxious about- I have no feelings of worry, only peace. And that is how I know that I am beginning to fulfill my purpose.

Preparing for this journey has been a journey within itself. To save you the details, I applied for the Lumos Travel Award Fall of 2019 and did not get it, but I am very thankful for that because it pushed me to truly seek my purpose and craft a project that aligns with that purpose while also fulfilling a need in which those currently in that community determined, as opposed to a need in which we in America think exists. I reapplied in Spring 2020 and was chosen. Originally, I was set to go August – December of 2020, but due to COVID, that got pushed back. I am extremely grateful that I am still able to go (January – June), and I cannot wait for you all to join me via web.

Moving abroad during a worldwide pandemic is of course coming with its own set of preparation. In order to get into South Africa, I must have a negative COVID test 72 hours prior to departure that is also signed by the practitioner that administered the test. Along with that, I have personally been quarantining this past month before going. South Africa is currently in their “Level 3”- meaning that masks are required at all times in public (you can be arrested if you are not wearing one), beaches and bars are closed, restaurants and other public places have limited hours, and there is a city-wide curfew from 9PM – 6AM. I am very thankful that the South African government is taking this pandemic seriously and doing everything they can to ensure safety.

For some reason, I cannot help but think about how different this experience is going to be than when I originally planned it. Questions that continue to go through my brain are: How will I meet people and make friends? Will I be able to do anything fun on the weekends, or will I be sitting in my house whenever I am not working? How will I experience new things if everything is closed? While I have no idea what the answers are to these, I am confident that I am going to grow throughout this experience. And honestly, I am excited by the fact that I don’t know. I think sometimes I get caught up in the preparation. I always want to make sure I think through every scenario and am prepared for whatever may happen. Well, now I am getting forced into the unknown, and I cannot wait.

The final goodbye to my Nashville home.

8 more days. Just 8 more days to mentally, physically, and emotionally prepare for this journey. But honestly, I am ready. These next 8 days will be filled with orientations via zoom, packing my suitcases, and mentally preparing to move away from my friends and family to another country to begin fulfilling my purpose. I am ready to step into the uncertain and choose joy along the way.

I cannot wait to continue to share this journey with you. Thank you for joining me!


Love Always,

Lexi Sweeney

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