Makhalemele makes the most out of the U.S.
FRI. |3-3-23| FEATURES
Some students may want to take short vacations abroad, while others may want to extend their stay by enrolling in a student exchange program. Junior Molatela Makhalemele made the decision to travel outside of Polokwane, South Africa, to gain a feeling of independence and arrived in North Carolina on Aug. 11, 2022.
“Growing up I’ve always been someone who is very invested in other people’s cultures and world affairs,” Makhalemele said. “When you grow up in South Africa it is a very diverse
Photo by Ava Alger
country and when you see the diversity, it kind of pushes you to see what else is out there.”
While Makhalemele prepared himself well to become an exchange student and visit the United States, he faced adversity as soon as he arrived at his first host home. Makhalemele self-identifies as queer and the first family he was put with was hateful toward the queer community, which caused conflicts and a toxic environment.
“My biggest challenge was definitely getting here and being hate-crimed before I even got to settle in,” Makhalemele said. “I had just gotten here, I was jetlagged, tired and just trying to adjust, and then boom, people are telling you that it is not okay to be yourself…it was just a lot.”
Ever since Makhalemele arrived in the United States, he has had a total of three host homes.
Fayetteville served as his first host home, followed by Raleigh, and now Greenville is his final host. Since he did not permanently stay in the other cities, Rose is the only school he has attended, in the United States.
“I got to the first host on the 11th and they were anti-queer, so there were a lot of clashes and it was just a bad environment,” Makhalemele said. “I had to move to Raleigh and I stayed there for a good month, but all the schools were not admitting any more students, so somehow I made it to Greenville two weeks after school started here.”
Because he wasn’t supposed to end up in Greenville, he had a late start at registering as a student at Rose. Makhalemele was able to have a school tour and get registered, but on his second day of school, he began to notice the differences compared to his previous school in South Africa.
“[My previous] school was an indoor and outdoor school, so all of the classes were indoor, but during lunch, you could just roam around the campus and do whatever you want before you go back to class,” Makhalemele said.
Makhalemele was able to receive guidance from two people, his current host, Clinton Todd, as well as sophomore Grayson Rendon.
“Grayson was the first person who really reached out to me and she has helped me maneuver around the school and a little bit around the city, so she was a big help with my transition,” Makhalemele said. “Mr. Todd was also a big help with maneuvering around Rose and he also helped me with my tour.”
Ever since Makhalemele has been a student at Rose, he has felt very accepted for who he is.
“For the most part, the people I’ve met here have been open-minded and accepting,” Makhalemele said. “I think it’s really beautiful to see a good amount of youth that is progressive in this society.”
Even though he came from South Africa, he did not have any challenges in speaking English.
“I only spoke English in class [in South Africa] and then out of the class you would speak your native language,” Makhalemele said. “I was very well equipped with English when I came here, I just didn’t like speaking it, but now I have to speak it all the time.”
Not only is the setting of his previous school different, but he has noticed the classes at Rose to be unique from what he is used to.
“Back home, for example, you take life sciences, but it also has biology, health sciences and environmental science, but here you can just take them individually,” Makhalemele said. “So I think here is that career focusness is something that we don’t have at home.”
Being a student at Rose, Makhalemele has been able to experience the school spirit at sports events.
“My favorite thing at Rose has been the school games because back home we have sports, but no one really cares,” Makhalemele said. “But here, we have themes, so that has definitely been one of the fun things that I love about Rose,… it has some sort of a community spirit that we don’t really have.”
Outside of school, Makhalemele has enjoyed traveling to places that he is unfamiliar with and has liked trying different foods.
“We go to the beach, we go out and try different restaurants because one of the things I am really invested in is trying different stuff all of the time,” Makhalemele said. “Back in South Africa, you don’t really find a Dominican, Mexican, or Italian restaurant.”
If any student has the desire of being an exchange student or knows of anyone who is interested in hosting exchange students, they can contact Makhalemele and he would be glad to help.
“Don't be afraid to occupy spaces that haven’t really been occupied before and be vocal in them,” Makhalemele said. “Be the change you want to see wherever you go and represent your country well.”