I’m lying in bed, and I can see my breath. Cape Town’s cold, and since I can’t sleep I’m thinking about all of the random events that happened this semester. I’m sitting on a throne of memories, and I wouldn’t trade a single one. The last five months have been a whirlwind, and with only a couple days left, I can already feel myself becoming nostalgic. I find myself reminiscing about what it felt like the first time I walk past anything: my house, campus, restaurants, Shoprite, everything. I’m diametrically torn between wanting to see my friends and family at home and staying in the most beautiful city I’ve ever come across. There aren’t really words that can describe the simultaneous happy and sad emotions that I’m feeling right now…bittersweet, I suppose. Living with 22 people has made for endless fun, but right now we’re going through parades of goodbyes as each one of us slowly flies off. I can’t wait to follow everyone’s future, knowing that our paths will cross soon enough. I’m going to leave the rest of this space for future Capetonians; here are a few tips that might be helpful when you go abroad!
- RIDE THE INFAMOUS MINI BUSES. Their appearance can be deceiving. You’ll hear these guys yelling out of the windows of beat-up vans, “Cape Town, WYNBERG!” They pack people in like sardines, but trust me it’ll be the cheapest way to get to city center, the grocery store, or anything on Main Road. Plus, the speaker systems are often worth more than the van itself, which makes for a bumpin’ ride.
- MAKE FRIENDS WITH SOUTH AFRICANS. As much as I adore and appreciate the American and international friends I’ve made along the way, part of the abroad experience is about getting to know the place and its people. I’ve seen and learned a lot of things that I don’t think would have been possible this semester had I not been shown by locals themselves. And when you come back to visit (because trust me, you will), it’ll give you more to look forward to.
- EAT OUT AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE. I’ve given up on cooking in this country for the past month or so. The restaurants in Cape Town are eclectic and unforgettable, and it’s just too good to stop eating. It also gives you the chance to check out new parts of town that may be hidden. Note: if you’re a foodie like me, make sure you spend a copious amount of time at the Old Biscuit Mill.
- TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THE SUN. Winter in Cape Town does exist, and it comes in the form of rain that literally blows sideways into your face. My rain jacket was the single best item I packed. Luckily, you’ll have gorgeous weather for the majority of the semester, but don’t wait to hike Table Mountain until the last week.
- THANK YOUR PARENTS, or whoever helped make studying abroad a reality for you. They may have supported you financially, or at the least emotionally during your time abroad. It doesn’t hurt to show them how much it meant to you to be able to go abroad.
- DON’T COMPARE YOUR EXPERIENCE TO ANYONE ELSE’S.
- AND ESPECIALLY DON’T COMPARE THINGS IN CAPE TOWN TO HOME. America is great at some things, like consistent wifi, bagels, and central heating. But you’re guaranteed to be miserable if you try to stay in your comfort zone and cling to what you know. Cape Town has so much to offer that you won’t find anywhere else in the world; soak it up while you can.
Lastly, here’s a quote that I stumbled upon that especially resonates with me after being here for five months.
“You’ll never be completely at home again, because part of your heart will always be elsewhere. That’s the price you pay for loving and knowing people in more than one place.” – Miriam Adeney