Authored by Madi Spence (she/her)
(Madi's concentration is in Social Entrepreneurship and she spent 4 and a half months in Cape Town as a student in Open Campus Block I, II & III.)
It is hard to encapsulate my whole Cape Town experience in just a few words, but it was nothing short of amazing. I have learned so much about myself, the world, and what I am capable of. I have done a lot of things for the first time that I probably never would have done if I did not study abroad in Cape Town. Everything from the biodiversity, the culture, and the people is beautiful and I will always remember the time that I spent here.
Even though we did so many excursions and activities, the most memorable moments were Heritage Day, Family Lunch in Gugulethu, and Service Learning in Langa. Heritage Day is a South African national holiday where everyone celebrates their culture, through clothing, music, art, dancing, and food. I went with a group of friends to Mojo Market in Sea Point where the whole street was blocked off and there were tons of people walking around, listening and dancing to the live bands, eating food, and taking pictures with art.
At times, we would take a break from walking around to just stand and look out into the crowd of people. Everyone was smiling, laughing, and just having a fun time. I couldn’t help but smile feeling a part of all the excitement. There was a big wooden board on the side of the street that had an outline of the South African flag. They allowed anyone to come up, choose their color, and put their handprint on the board. It didn’t matter whether you were from Cape Town or not, they welcomed anyone to be a part of it.
Even more, hyped about the day, my friend and I joined in when everyone was dancing in the street, even if we didn’t know the dance right away, we quickly picked it up and really got into it. I just felt so happy and blessed to be a part of such a big cultural experience that is so different than mine, especially when there is no judgment for being an outsider.
The same sentiments continued when we had the chance to visit Mama Doreen for Family Lunch in Gugulethu township. Especially with all the stigma around townships, and concerns about safety and violence, I did not know what to expect, but I had the best time of my life. Mama Doreen and the whole family were so welcoming and accepting of all of us. Equally, they wanted to learn more about us just as we wanted to learn more about them.
Mama Doreen cooked amazing food, we had great conversations, laughed a lot, took so many pictures, and hugged like there was no tomorrow. I quickly realized that townships are just like any other place, they just don’t have as many resources as other areas may have access to. Nonetheless, the people are happy, loving, and truly community driven. Mama Doreen told us that everyone looks out for one another, and every child is cared for even if not by their own parent.
It was so amazing to get to connect with everyone on a deeper level and have a chance to really experience the beauty of their community. I even went back a third time to visit them before I had to go back home, and there was the same amount of love every time we went. I will never forget the time that I spent with them and all the happiness that they gave me with every visit. They may not have everything, but they make the best of their circumstances and choose love overall.
Last, but certainly not least, my time in the Langa township was unbelievable. My friend and I were volunteers at Meals on Wheels through Bridges Academy for Music and couldn’t have had a better experience. We helped the team prepare, serve, and deliver the food that was distributed to the people in need within the community. From the very first day, we were welcomed with hugs, love, laughter, and no judgment for not having done volunteering like this before.
Everyone on the team was there every step of the way and really made us feel like we were a part of the family. At the end of the day, we couldn’t leave the building without giving everyone hugs, even though we were going to be there the next day again. I’m going to miss all the conversations, stories, drives to get the bread, learning isiXhosa, and more about South African culture and history.
I wouldn’t trade my time with them for anything in the world, but I know that it will not be the last time. Even being able to experience all the tourist attractions, the best moments were through my experiences and memories with the people of Cape Town. People told me before I left, that this trip would be a life-changing experience, and they couldn’t have been more right. I’m more confident in myself, I have a stronger worldly perspective to denounce any stigmas and discrimination, and I am left with amazing memories and people that I will never forget.