Megan Siddle: Accountancy Graduate

Posted: 18 January 2023

Megan Siddle is a St Stithian’s graduate (2017). After graduating from school, Megan studied Accounting at the University of Stellenbosch in the Western Cape of South Africa. She is now based in London and is completing her internship training (articles) in preparation for her Chartered Accounting board exams.

The impact of her Round Square exchange to India was a transformative experience for Megan. When she was in Grade 10, Megan chose to enrol in the exchange programme. For students at St Stithian’s, participating in the exchange programme meant that you not only agreed to go on exchange, you were also told where you would go. Students could not choose. Megan went to Vivek High School in Northern India.

The two months Megan spent living in India, spending time with her host family and attending Vivek, made her explore her cultural assumptions and ways of living. It also gave her the confidence to meet new challenges. Megan explains that it was not only her engagement with the Indian culture that enriched her exchange experience, it was also meeting other exchange students who had come to Vivek from all over the world. She enjoyed connecting with other nationalities, and still does.

Megan remembers how protective her host family were of her. She was surprised as she was used to more independence in South Africa. She also remembers how the colour of her skin attracted attention, which it didn’t do in South Africa. She also remembers the sensory overload she felt when she visited Delhi. There was so much happening around her and there were so many contrasts to her life in Africa, so many things she had taken for granted.

“The one thing that I missed was seeing the blue sky. The sunsets were incredible, but I found out that was only because of the pollution. When we went on school camp to Shoghi, below the Himalayan mountains, that was the first time I saw the stars. It really changed my perspective on sustainability and the environment.”

Megan also noticed the cultural differences in language use. She discovered that in South African culture, people say “thank you” all the time – even for the smallest things. Megan’s host family explained that in their culture, the expression of thanks is used sparingly but with greater impact. It was only after this explanation that Megan realised that what had been mistaken for ingratitude during the time she hosted her exchange student in South Africa, was in fact a cultural difference in the way gratitude is expressed. Her exchange student wrote beautiful, personalised letters to each member of the family to express her thanks when she returned home, choosing to express thanks deeply and at one time.

Megan enjoyed living with her host family. The relationships she formed have continued. “We have kept in contact since. It is funny, we have become better friends now as we have both matured more. I often think about my experiences in India and message her.”
Living and experiencing contrasting cultures has had a long-lasting impact on both of the girls. Megan remembers how disconnected she felt when she returned to South Africa after her exchange.

“I found it really hard to acclimatize when I came back to South Africa. I had such an amazing experience, and no one could understand what I went through. Or they would get bored when I would bring it up in conversation. I really struggled with how everyone just carried on with their lives and I had to fit back into that.”

Since her exchange, Megan’s host family has moved to the USA and her exchange partner is now studying for her Masters in Europe. Megan believes that they both have chosen to study outside of their home cultures because of the confidence they gained from their exchange experiences. They are comfortable amongst other cultures.

Reflecting on her experience in India, she is thankful that she was able to spend time in a context so different to her own.

“I am more grateful that I had those experiences in India, as apposed to the ones I would have had if I had gone to Australia. Australia is very similar to South Africa in terms of the lifestyle you have. But living in India with a family and going about daily life is something I would never have done as a tourist.”

She believes that the richness that she took from the experience was because she stepped outside of her comfort zone and because she chose to see difference in cultures as a “growth opportunity”. Megan believes that this approach has remained with her and continues to have a positive impact on her work.

In my current job I am someone who embraces everything and that is something that is reflected in my performance reviews. I look at everything from a positive or learning perspective and find a way to grow from experience.

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