Introducing Mpho Molapo
A South African in the American Southeast
October 9, 2015
From the way she acts, you’d never guess Mpho Molapo was a foreigner from South Africa. Her confidence in everything from arguing Homer in class to ordering her drink in the long Einsteins line doesn’t seem indicative of someone who is still learning American culture.
But perhaps that’s the way she wants it.
“[Mercer University] was away from home. Georgia was as close and as far as I could get,” Molapo said.
Hailing from Johannesburg, Molapo and her family came to this country several years ago for the promise of a better education.
“Getting an MBA from the Unites States, no matter where it is, means a whole lot more than getting an MBA from South Africa” Molapo explained.
Her parents now reside back in South Africa, awaiting her arrival after graduation, while her brothers live in south Florida.
“But I’m here” the 18-year-old said with a knowing smile, still adjusting to her new home just like any other freshman.
When asked about her decision to come to Mercer, Molapo was happy to divulge that her high school counselor urged her to pursue the opportunity. Now, she is here studying international business.
“I switched over from liberal arts…mostly because it would make my parents happy.” She laughed while taking a bite of her french toast bagel. Mpho explained that in South Africa, as well as many other places around the world, family comes first. It is expected to put the needs of the family above the needs of the individual, something she feels Americans have a hard time accepting.
“For us, everything is so family based…when I succeed, the family succeeds with me,” she said.
For this reason, Molapo said she is happy to study what her parents feel is best in preparation for her return home. When asked about the biggest difference between her culture and ours, her sentiments echoed those of familial success.
While this difference is difficult to accommodate, Molapo made it clear that she respects both cultures in their clashing nature and was eager to point out some aspects she loves about the American way of life.
“Everything is so convenient. You can order everything online. E-books are just life giving,” she said with amusing admiration. “We still struggle with the internet [in South Africa] even though we are very modern.”
As for the hardest adjustment to life at Mercer University, Molapo had a complaint similar to all college students across the country—Money. The lack of it was difficult for her, as well as many students, to adapt to after she left home.
Surprisingly, the language barrier, which is one of the most common obstacle international students, face didn’t seem to phase Molapo at all. She is fluent in four languages, including English, and can read or speak several more.
When it comes to the future, Molapo says she’d love to study abroad and plans to work for a South Korean company like LG Electronics Inc., a mobile communications and electronics company. However, she is excited for her home here at Mercer and grateful for the opportunities, and struggles, that come with living in America.
“America is the land of opportunity…and I knew this wasn’t going to be the land of milk and honey walking in here,” Molapo said.