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A New Sense of Normality

I write this in school coffee shop on an oversized comfy-chair with two legs clad in warm leggings hanging off the armrest. Every morning, I wake up—not too late, but definitely not too early—in a warm bed with four blankets to make up for the lack of any sense of a proper-working heater in my apartment. The day, everyday, is filled to the brim with classes, practices, meetings, and the daily dose of dining hall. To me, this life is “normal”, usual for a student my age. Any other life seems irregular and foreign. What do I want to gain from my experience abroad? Simple: a new “normal”.

Perhaps the greatest difference between a tourist and a full-time student abroad is what each call “home”. Home is a place of identity, support, and comforting familiarity; it is a context in which things are regular. A tourist walks through the Uffizi Galleria in Florence or roams the royal castles in Stockholm as a visitor, wide-eyed and perhaps feeling a little out of place. For a student abroad, however, sunbathing on the beach in Barcelona or hiking to the top of Table Mountain in Cape Town are not out of ordinary, for those are the adventures that become regular, and those the places that become a part of “home”.

Regular does not mean boring or habitual. I want to wake up every morning with a sense of adventure. I want to explore breathtaking landscapes, meet a variety of new people, and learn about different ways of life. I want to browse the trinkets in Green Market Square, make friends with penguins at Boulders Beach, relive the past on Robben Island, shark cage dive in the Indian Ocean. I want to photograph for a day at the Cape Point Nature Reserve, observe a traditional ceremony at the Castle of Good Hope, be in awe of the aquatic life in the Two Oceans Aquarium. I want to do all of this and much much more, and I want this to be a “normal” part of my life, not as a visitor our tourist but as a local resident, immersed in a culture that I find hidden identity with. Let this be my pledge to take every opportunity that allows me to experience South African culture and all of the many adventures that Cape Town places at my doorstep.

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