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Cape Town Conundrum

With only five more weeks of classes left, I’m eagerly awaiting the end of my semester at the University of Cape Town. I am not very excited to return to the States, however. When I tell this to my friends back home, they are confused. They equate the school and the country as the same experience, and find it interesting that my love of South Africa is so starkly contrasted with my dislike for UCT.

Back home, I attend Bowdoin College, which I can proudly say is ranked 6th in the nation for liberal arts colleges. Needless to say, I am used to a heavy workload filled with hundreds of pages of reading, long essays and rough tests. Coming to UCT, I expected slightly less work, but was aware that UCT would not be easy – as it is the top university in Africa.

Unfortunately, I was in for an unpleasant surprise. The workload is twice as much as Bowdoin, but at the same time I feel like the assignments are not as mentally challenging as the ones I receive at Bowdoin. For example, the essay topics are quite broad, such as “Describe the events of the Cold War,” as oppose to the more complex topics I received at Bowdoin.

Instead of going on amazing adventures during my Spring Break like my friends, I was in the library working on two essays. To my surprise, the library was packed with students with similar heavy workloads. I am still unhappy and disappointed that I missed out on a week of traveling because of those assignments.

It is hard to be in such a beautiful, wonderful country, but to spend my time indoors doing homework. I have a strong work ethic, so I do not follow my friends’ advice to just slack off and not do it. So how do I balance getting my work done and enjoying the limited time I have here?

If I could do it all over again, I still would have come to UCT because it gave me the opportunity to be in Africa. I just hope that when I look back on my study abroad experience that I will not be disappointed.

In the meantime, I am trying to make the best of my experience with UCT and to stop comparing it to Bowdoin. After all, leaving UCT means leaving South Africa. My fears for reverse culture shock once I enter the States are beginning to develop. I find myself telling friends, “I don’t want to leave! Don’t make me!” Maybe Bowdoin can move its campus to South Africa? Highly doubtful unfortunately!

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