Thinking About Cape Town? Do it.
Somehow I’ve already been back in the U.S. for a month, and my memory of leaving South Africa feels like a very strange dream. I went through the motions of packing and saying goodbye to everyone I had grown so close with in 5 months, but it was really hard to wrap my brain around the thought that I was actually leaving the beautiful place that had been my home for a semester. When it finally did hit me sometime on the 15-hour flight from Johannesburg to New York (the TVs weren’t working so there was a lot of time to think about these things), I didn’t know how to feel. I was very excited to see my family and friends back at home, but just couldn’t believe that my time in Cape Town was over. In 5 months I had made some amazing friends, and had incredible experiences that I know I will never forget.
My time in Cape Town inspired a lot of self-reflection, and taught me to think about how I respond in new situations. I have always thought of myself as a pretty patient person, but life in Cape Town definitely challenged me to go with the flow. For example, the train was almost always late, which is the kind of thing that would probably put most people in the U.S. in a huff, but there I had to learn to just shrug and adjust my plans accordingly. I also learned that it’s worth it to make the extra effort to explore a place. I know that I tend to be lazy when it comes to making plans, but luckily I had friends who showed me that taking the time to organize excursions and day trips is extremely valuable to make the most of a place.
People always ask what the highlight of my time abroad was, and I mentally scroll through a series of incredible memories: meeting Desmond Tutu, shark-cage diving, whitewater rafting in the Zambezi River, taking in the view from the top of Devil’s Peak, watching elephants from a sunset cruise in Chobe National Park, wine touring in Stellenbosch, exploring nearby beach towns, relaxing at summer concerts at Kirstenbosch botanical gardens, camping at the delta in Botswana. Each of those experiences was amazing in a different way, and I feel like I could talk about each for an inordinately long time. Since I’ve been home, I have found it very challenging to concisely sum up my time abroad, but for anyone thinking about studying abroad in Cape Town: do it.