14 March 2013

{My Story + Our Story}

I've been seeing a few new faces around here lately, so today I thought it might be a good idea to take a break from all of the Namibia posts and tell you a bit more about who I am and how I came to be an expat living in South Africa.  Sometimes it's fun to go back to the basics, right?

First things first, 
I'm a born and bred Southern California girl and my parents and brother still happily call the sunshine state home.  In fact, my brother and I went to the same primary school as my mom and the same high school where my parents met and became high school sweethearts.

For my undergraduate degree, I went to a university quite close to home, mostly because it offered amazing study abroad opportunities {let's be serious here}.  I was first a psych major, then switched to business admin, and finally landed on international studies.

During my second year, I studied abroad on a program called Semester at Sea and it changed my life.  I became completely addicted to travel and the exhilarating experience of getting to know and understand people and cultures so different to my own.  It was, without a doubt, the most amazing three months of my life.

Upon returning home, I quickly decided to enrol in another semester program at the University of Stellenbosch in South Africa.  It was a pretty easy choice considering the beautiful campus, surrounding vineyards, and extensive service learning opportunities.

Within about a week of landing in the country I met Jurgen and within another week we were basically inseparable. What started as a fun international fling, quickly turned into something way more serious.  When it came time to head back to the States at the end of the semester we knew that we wanted to give this long distance thing a try even though we weren't sure when we would next see each other.

Distance was so hard, but worth it. 

After a semester apart, I returned to South Africa for the last semester of my undergraduate degree, flew home for graduation, and {much to the surprise of my poor parents} jumped straight back on a plane bound for Africa.  And well... the rest is history.

In 2010, we moved to Johannesburg so that Jurgen could pursue his PhD.  Although we were initially both less than excited about the move, we've come to love this city so much.  The people, the diversity, the artiness, the edginess, the everything.  But, this is a transitional phase in our lives and eventually we will probably actually settle elsewhere {although we don't know where elsewhere is yet}.

Speaking of settling down, last year Jurgen proposed {!!!} and we're slowly starting to embark on the adventure of planning an international and intercultural wedding.  This process has been somewhat sidetracked by my own postgraduate studies this year, but definitely not abandoned completely.  Stay tuned!

We love road tripstravel, and weekend adventures.  
And we're so excited to build a life together.
Although we know that the fact that we come from different places means that we will always have our own unique challenges, we're more than game.

If you still want to know more, see {here + here + here}

Thanks for following along so far!


  1. i love this post and being able to get to know you more! what an amazing opportunity to stud and live in South Africa, we're HOPING to go this winter! can't wait!

  2. OOh I love this post! Great reminder of your travels and adventure thus far, thanks for catching me up to speed on some things I had forgotten. And you have quite the exciting life :)

  3. Just loved getting to read the story in full!

  4. I just love hearing about the origins of other expats! Plus, I can't wait to get back to South Africa, we had such an amazing trip, what an absolutely stunning country!

  5. I'm BEYOND jealous you did Semester at Sea. That's my biggest regret about my undergrad - I looked into it but with other stuff I had going on at the time it just wasn't feasible, so every time I meet someone new who went I can't help but be so happy that they had that experience! Ah-mazing.

  6. Great blog! I do love travels so much too;) Im ur new follower. I would love that u follow me back and plz can u click on SHEINSIDE on my blog i need that:)

  7. I love love love hearing about long distance relationships that last. It always gives me hope! :)

  8. Hi Jenna,

    thanks for sharing your story again - it really is amazing and I wish you and Jurgen the very best for the future!


  9. Your blog is awesome! I just discovered it about two weeks ago and it's become one of my favourites.

    Where in Southern California did you grow up?

  10. I've been reading for awhile, but I still loved this post. It was great to read how it all happened.

  11. I'm so glad I found your bog! It's funny cuz that's pretty much how I've met my boyfriend too! I'm originally from France and went to the UK to study at university. My boyfriend is British and pretty much the first guy I met when I arrived (we happened to be in the same uni accommodation) and within one week we were together. We've never left each other since then and I'm now living with him in the UK :)

    Can't wait to read the rest of your blog. The photos look amazing from what I've seen so far!


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  15. loved this post! loved reading all the back story to your all's story and where you are now! XO

  16. oh Jenna, the story of you & Jurg makes my heart swoon. goes to show you just how someones life course can change trajectory and hit a mark otherwise never thought of. i'm glad you studied abroad and learned of your love for travel. it's led you to more happiness with each next step you've taken.

    loved seeing the photo re-caps from your tour through Namibia too. i swear it's like pieces of heaven on earth. just too beautiful for words!

    continued luck & laughter plus good health & happiness all wished your way! xo ♥

  17. Congrats! Isn't study abroad so life-changing. I think it should be a requirement for everyone. Good luck on the wedding planning!

  18. I love your story and I loved reading it again.

  19. I loved reading the story! I finally get to catch up on all that brought you to Jozi! Welcome!

  20. Came to your page from Liz' blog because my cousin also moved to South Africa to study and ended up staying because she fell in love :) Read this entry, clicked the tab for University (figured I'd know it since I live in Southern California) and saw you went to CLU..I live in Thousand Oaks and grew up down the street from CLU! My husband also went there (a year above you)..so crazy!! My cousin currently lives in Durban but lived in Johannesburg for several years before her move. It is my dream to visit SA, I am so jealous of you!

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  23. Lovely recap Jenna, I love your story, it's so interesting to hear about different people's lives and how they ended up where they are!

    xo Lisa

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  27. This is my first time reading your story, and I love it. So sweet! Love your blog.

  28. It was nice to read your introduction, I've had your blog on my "to read" list for a while but haven't had time to catch up on any reading for a long time. And now it was quite a perfect time to jump straight in! It'll be interesting to read about your life in SA, so different than mine up here in Norway! :) Oh and about multicultural weddings, me (a Finn) and my British husband got married in Slovenia, it ended up being an amazing mixture of traditions from the three different cultures!

  29. :) Congrats on your graduation this weekend!

  30. 1. you are gorgeous in that photo
    2. SOCAL WHAT WHAT!!!!!!!! Are you like me and still say the word "awesome" constantly? No matter how long I've been away it remains a staple in my vocab (;

  31. congrats :)


  32. I just discovered your blog, and what a first post to read!! Such an amazing story! Looking forward reading your blog:-)

  33. I just found your blog from Across the Pond. I too married my exchange student love, so I immediately related to your story. And also, South Africa!, it is in my list of places to visit.

  34. surely amazing, I really like this sweet post!
    keep reading xx


  35. Hi Jenna! So lovely to stumble across your blog. Where are you studying? I'm at UJ doing masters in International Law. I've just gone through a couple of your older posts and it looks like you've had an amazing time in Namibia.

    Would love it if you stopped by sometime.

    Arum Lilea

  36. just stopping in to say hi and i miss you!

  37. Loved reading all about your bio! It all makes sense now!! Still so excited about your engagement! You are going to be one gorgeous bride!! xo

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Thanks for the love!