Rachel Vernon
Rachel Vernon
South Africa, 2022
Hi, my name is Rachel, I will be going to Cape Town, South Africa for 6 months to work with Volunteer Solutions. I plan to work in elementary schools with sports development and work in a local clinic. Read More About Rachel →

Officially Home

Climbed Devil’s Peak (one of the hardest hikes) on the second to last day

Hi everyone! I have been keeping a secret. I actually came home a week early because I felt like I had accomplished everything I came to do. But I couldn’t write about my final days in Cape Town because I had surprises in place for my parents and best friends. I officially left Cape Town on January 19th at 1:15 am. I knew saying goodbye would be difficult, but I completely underestimated the ache I felt. Jade, Auntie V, Sofia, and Hinse all dropped me off at the airport. Jade wanted to see me off but also wanted Sofia to get used to the airport because Jade’s fiancé, and Sofia’s dad, is coming in 3 weeks! I said goodbye to Rozano and Ronaldo at the house. I’m going to miss having two little brothers. Rozano and I always scared each other around every corner, and Ronaldo and I would sit by the pool and hang out.


The final goodbyes with Yonga

On our way to the airport, I was taking in the view of Table Mountain with a beautiful sunset behind it for the last time (or at least for a while). We jammed to Jade and my favorite songs as we drove to the airport. Once we got to the airport it was hard fighting back the tears. I realized this was it…. this was the end of my trip. It felt like it didn’t go too fast in the moment, but looking back, it FLEW BY! When it came time to say goodbye, I couldn’t hold back the tears. The floodgates came flowing. I think I hugged each person three times because we couldn’t say goodbye. I had become family to them, and they were my chosen family for the last six months. This family took me in as their own. I finally couldn’t keep looking at them because I was starting to bawl.

The surprise glass window and final goodbyes

I made it through security and composed myself. But when I turned the corner, there was a glass window, and they were standing there crying and blowing kisses. Of course, I started bawling again. It took me a good 30 minutes to stop crying. I could finally hear myself think without Sofia screaming or crying, Rozano and Zizi chasing each other, Auntie V shouting at Ronaldo to make a cup of tea or Jade honking her car horn when she came home from work. All the noise that got on my nerves, I now missed.


Went out to lunch with Auntie V, Jade, and Natasha

The first day of school was also my last day of school. Saying goodbye to the kids was difficult. The teachers were so excited to see me, but then I had to tell them the bad news, that I was actually going home the same day. They were very appreciative of all my help and wished me the best of luck. As I walked out, I soaked up the last moments at school. All the new parents might have been concerned about who I was and why was I crying. I will always remember Belthorne Primary School and the people I met. The next time I come to Cape Town these kids will be big, even adults. Some of the kids wrote me letters saying they loved me and will miss me. I couldn’t understand most of what they wrote, but the pictures were cute.


Sitting in the airport crying both happy and sad tears at the same time

My flight from Amsterdam to Atlanta felt surreal. It meant that I was officially going back to America. The flight attendants were all American and it was so weird to hear American accents now. I started to cry because I missed Auntie V’s accent and her slang. Also, the temperature in Amsterdam was 50-60 F, and felt amazing. It was the first time I had the chills in a long time. I will miss the summer nights under the stars, but I won’t miss the sweaty sleepless nights.







Landing in Nashville and getting picked up by my fiancé

As I reflect on the last 6 months, I learned a lot, I grew a lot and I became a better version of myself. I have spent lots of time with family since coming home which has allowed me to feel welcomed home with open arms. My mom was definitely ready for me to come home! It took me about a week and a half to adjust to the time change. I ended up getting sick from the change in weather. But it reminded me of what I had just accomplished. Me, a twenty-two year old, moved across the world by myself to an unfamiliar place and made a home, made life-long friends, and amazing memories. I am proud of myself for taking this journey and am so thankful that LUMOS allowed me the opportunity.

Totsiens vir nou (Goodbye for now)

P.S. I will be giving a presentation about my trip on campus Feb. 24th.

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