First Impressions of host country: South Africa, You Never Cease to Amaze Me!

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Authored By:

Alexis P.

Hello all! A little update, I have been in South Africa for about three weeks now. I flew in a week or so early with family to explore some of the beautiful history and adventure this country has to offer. I landed in Johannesburg on August 6th,where I did normal touristy things like visited the Apartheid Museum, toured Nelson and Winnie Mandela’s home, and ventured through the township of Soweto. After a few days in Jo-burg, we stayed on a safari in Pilanesberg (about two hours from Johannesburg). I had the best time of my life LOL. We were lucky and spotted all of the Big 5. Big 5 includes the lion, leopard, buffalo, giraffe, and rhino. After a few days on the safari, we flew to Cape Town to prepare me for school.

Now that we’re all caught up, I’m at school and I love it. I’m studying abroad through CIEE and so far, we’ve had an amazing time. My program is pretty small with 18 students and we all live together and take the same classes for the most part. I’m enrolled in two courses: HIV/AIDS Policy, Politics, and Ordinary Lives and “A Season of Protest” in South Africa. Both classes are super work heavy but, very interesting; they’ve given me a new outlook on life abroad and in America! My favorite aspect of this program has been the cultural immersion. We’ve had several field trips, cooking classes, volunteer opportunities, and discussions with locals to give us realistic experiences. 

I love this place. Cape Town gives you vibes like no other place in the world. This country, and city in particular, is so deeply rooted in history and everything about it gives you a sense of hope. Everyone I’ve crossed paths with is so genuine and grateful. South Africans are pretty friendly people who are super helpful. I’ve been taking language classes to learn survival isiXhosa and the locals surrounding my school have been so excited to help me improve. (I was told I was doing great for a first timer !!!) Also, the food here is AMAZING. Most food is dirt cheap considered to prices in America, so I’ve been eating great on such a cheap budget. Everything here is fresh and cooked with TLC (literally). Since being here and getting adjusted to my new environment, I’ve felt a strong realm of comfortability and community. My gratitude is through the roof for the amount of growth and opportunity I’ll experience here. 

My number one goal in all of the places I study this semester is to give back. Last week my program did a tour of one of the larger townships in Cape Town, Langa. Yes, townships look exactly as they are depicted on television, maybe worse. But one thing’s for sure, these are some of the most resourceful, responsible, and creative people you’ll see…ever! If only they were able to educate the rest of the world about sustainability! Anyways, this was my second time visiting Langa (the first was with my family). Both times I felt so welcomed and drawn to return. My favorite part about both visits would have to be the children. We played, we talked, and we took way too many selfies. They were so sweet and happy! I visited this community center specializing in the arts and instantly fell in love. I’m currently in the works of setting up some form of volunteerism there. 

I hate to cut this short, I can go on and on about all things wonderful about this place but, my program is taking a study weekend tour to Worcester (about 3 hours from Cape Town) and I have yet to get myself together. I will catch up later with how that was, but I have to sign off! To sum it up, I love this place to death and here are my top five favorites so far…

1. Langa- the babies have my heart!
2. Food- specifically the braai’s (South African BBQ)
3. Service- great hospitality everywhere, super sweet and dedicated staff everywhere
4. Affordability- everything is so cheap and affordable 

5. Local markets/Small business