“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone”
Looking back on the first half of the second semester, it’s incredibly surreal how much has already taken place. It goes without saying that when you’re having fun time seems to move a little faster! A lot has happened and while it was hoped that we would post more organically as things took place, we’ll try and do our best to reflect on everything so far.
A picture may be worth a thousand words, but a memory is worth more.
Although we certainly encourage students to take as many pictures during their stay in Cape Town, there are times when foregoing photographic evidence for the sake of living in the moment is just the right thing to do. Many students have spoken at length about the bonds they’ve created with their homestay families, working with the children at The Ark, stimulating conversations they’ve had and enjoying the night life in Cape Town. That’s barely touching on everyone’s experience but these are the moments that you can never quite capture unless you’re fully present. We’re certain many have learned that it’s fine to leave your phone at home and simply surrender to the experiences abroad.
Be adventurous & surround yourself with positive people.
When you’re in the environment that CIEE students find themselves, elements of adventure are inevitable. In the two months that have passed, some have toured Robben Island, been bungee jumping, hiking, shark cage diving, skydiving and sand boarding, all the while managing to submit the weekly tutorials and essays that put the study in study abroad. All these activities are not fully worth it unless you’re doing them with people you care about. It’s always interesting watching homestay students mingling with residence kids or attending a braai at Verona and bumping into Rondebosch Court people. While most find themselves placed with many other exchange students, that doesn’t necessarily translate to being trapped in an American bubble; instead finding the right personalities to mesh with and meeting locals is all part of the experience and it challenges students to find a way of breaking away from the crowd. Feedback from RA’s, students and staff alike indicate that as soon as people take on that challenge their days and nights become unforgettable.
CIEE does a great job of planning events that bring the entire programme together and a few of those are mentioned below:
In a world cup year you can’t quite explain the excitement that has gripped rugby fans throughout South Africa and there are few better ways of experiencing that than attending a Springboks game on home turf. We went to Newlands Rugby Stadium to watch the Springboks take on the World XV. Yeah, the World XV was in our back yard! What made the experience that little more special was the atmosphere when the Springboks won the match, students joked and celebrated with diehard fans embracing the culture of a sport many had never watched before!
The amazing thing about sport in South Africa is that everyone watches everything. It’s as simple as that, on a Saturday morning we watch Rugby and in the afternoons were all glued to our TV screens watching football. It was a no brainer to go and watch the Cape Town Cup contested by two local football giants and two visiting Premier League teams from the UK. The World Cup stadium was packed and we were right there in the mix! Perhaps the most vivid memory from that day wasn’t the winning team lift the Cup but when Casey, Matt and Patrick started a Mexican wave that went around three times! Three times! Three times around the stadium and it was started by our very own. It goes to show the energy, enthusiasm and excitement that students really use to immerse themselves in their new community.
If there’s one thing to know about Cape Town is that the weather is often unpredictable. We planned to visit a farm in the Phillipi area and help erect housing structures, paint as well as run a soup kitchen for the workers on the farm. However, the incessant rain made conditions terrible and we were unable to get any of the manual labour completed. That didn’t stop people from engaging with the spirit behind Nelson Mandela’s legacy of selflessness. Instead we covered books that would be donated to Phillipi high school in order to help them start their very own library. This was one of those moments that picture would do injustice.
Play at Baxter:
As a fairly new democracy, being in South Africa forces you to engage with social and political issues and we watched a play at the Baxter Theatre that precisely dealt with people experiences under apartheid. It was a gripping performance by the cast and many left asking all the right questions about the current state of South Africa’s democracy.
Unlike previous semesters, we have elected to have every Tuesday of the semester dedicated to providing something of cultural value to the students. The last couple of weeks have all dealt with socio-political and economic debates surrounding South Africa but in the pipeline are more light hearted events such as hair wrapping and beading!
The constant challenge is not just ticking things off your to-do list but creating those memories that you’ll laugh about in 10 years when you’re back in Cape Town.