Braais and Banter

February 16, 2016

in Africa, Caroline Riese, South Africa, Spring 2016

I made it! I arrived early Thursday morning with 8 other exchange students from the US. The first few days, I stayed in a dorm on campus with about 200 other study abroad students. It was like freshman year all over again. Everyone was eager and naïve and I met 50 people each day and I’ll never remember most of their names. It was a great and overwhelming time to be with so many people in the same position.

On Saturday, I hopped on a bus with 4 people I had never met and moved into a house with them. The house we are staying in is SO FREAKING BEAUTIFUL. It already feels like home. My roommates are just as fabulous as the house. There is a good variety of people in the home with 2 girls from Norway, a guy from Switzerland, and 2 girls from the US. I think we get along really well and I can’t wait to go on lots of adventures with them! There are some people with housing situations that are not as perfect so I feel extremely lucky with my placement.

Classes don’t start until February 15th so I have been on “holiday” for the past 2 weeks. There is so much to do in Cape Town and the surrounding cities and it’s slightly overwhelming but also really exciting. A big part of South African culture is braais (a cook out/barbecue), so if you’re planning on coming here you’ll have to enjoy eating large amounts of amazing food and socializing with amazing people. Yeah, it’s really a sacrifice. I have also been going to the beach a lot and lemme tell ya – the sun here is EVIL. Even with reapplying sunscreen every 30 minutes I still manage to look like Mr. Krabs constantly. Hiking is another fun activity that is really common around here. There are so many different trails and mountains to climb and each one is more beautiful than the last.

The highlight of my experience so far was a four day long road trip I took with 12 of my friends. We rode along the Garden Route, which is a famous stretch in South Africa known for its beautiful and diverse nature. The trip included hanging out with elephants and ostriches, caving, ziplining, BUNGEE JUMPING off the world’s highest bungee bridge (?!?!?!), hiking in a National park, and a canoe trip. We stayed in hostels at night, 2 of which were right on the beach. One of my favorite parts of the trip was discovering that the sand on the beach was bioluminescent at our final hostel. I’m sure we looked absolutely crazy jumping and running around on the beach for 30 minutes straight as it lit up but we were having the time of our lives.

As expected, there are lots of differences between South Africa and the US. The main thing that I am still getting used to (I’m not sure if I’ll ever get used to it) is how slow going everything is here. A “quick” dinner here takes 1.5 hours. Registration is still done with paper and requires extreme patience to get through. When someone tells you they will do something “now”, it means that they will get to it within a day. Another change is the amount of security precautions I have to take on a daily basis. For example, I need four keys and a security code just to get into my room. I think the best thing to come out of the security precautions is that because I am not using my iPhone in public, I’m actually looking around and having real conversations with my friends. With these changes, I am learning to become a less anxious and more organized person.

Now it’s back to “reality” – school starts on Monday. I am taking Critical Psychology, Poverty, Development and Globalism, and African Language and Literature. Along with that, I signed up for three societies (clubs) that I’m extra super excited about. SHAWCO, mountain and ski, and wine society, are sure to bring me lots of adventures and new friends!

“The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience” – Eleanor Roosevelt

This lil’ bugger stole my heart at the elephant reserve

This lil’ bugger stole my heart at the elephant reserve

All 13 of us bonded as we bungee jumped the world’s highest bungee bridge

All 13 of us bonded as we bungee jumped the world’s highest bungee bridge

The view from the summit of Lion’s Head

The view from the summit of Lion’s Head

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