I'm one of those annoying people that says studying abroad totally changed them. But its true, Cape Town changed me into a better, more worldly person and even beginning to write this review makes me so homesick.
The first day I woke up in my room in Cape Town, I was deathly ill. I'll save you the gruesome details but it was so bad I had to go to a doctor. I was in a new country with no friends yet and feeling completely hopeless. Everyone in my program had left for an overnight bonding trip and I was alone in this big house, sick as a dog. One of the Arcadia directors, Marsha, saved the day and came to be my mom for the next 24 hours. She dropped everything to take me to the doctor, made me soup, and slept in the house with me so I wasn't alone. I felt better the next day and I could already tell that I had chosen the correct program provider. Marsha is hilarious and she would always check up on me throughout the semester.
I was in Cape Town from end of January to mid June and I'm not sure where to even begin. Our program was small, about 45 of us and we all instantly bonded. All the directors always said they had never seen a group like us that were so close. We got there two weeks before school started and were able to explore South Africa. We did a trip called the Garden Route with Southern Ambition and it was a 4 day trip along the coast with stops along the way. We stayed in hostels, kayaked to a waterfall, bungee jumped from the tallest bridge in the world, rode ostriches, played with cheetahs and lemurs, and many other adventures. It was a great experience because of who we were with, the company that hosted us, and just being able to get a view of SA and set expectations for the rest of the semester.
School was challenging but doable. UCT is an esteemed school and the students there have worked their butt off to get there. It was actually really cool to be in such a dynamic school environment where students are engaged and debates are a common occurrence. Arcadia was a little different in the fact that we had a weekly class "Introducing SA" led by the director, Alan, where we would all attend. It was great because Alan is quite the character and we would all get to share experiences we had had or things we were going through. The best part of UCT for me was being able to hear opinions of those different than me with totally different backgrounds. Kentucky is very homogeneous so getting to have conversations with others about colonialism, supremacy, misogyny, and other tough topics was eye opening. I grew up believing what I did and never challenging it and left South Africa questioning why I believed the things I did and doing some self exploration. I went from caring about my little world and being uninformed to getting a better grasp of what the outside world looks like and trying to inform myself on important issues.
My favorite parts of Cape Town were the hikes (Lions Head cannot be beat), the small little towns a short Uber away like Houts Bay or Kalk bay, the friends I spent everyday with, living like kings because of the exchange rate, bunny chow (a dish only in SA), and always being able to go on an adventure. Being home and not constantly planning a weekend trip has made me restless.
I could carry on about my time abroad for hours but I will spare you my babbling. South Africa completely changed me in the best way possible and I walked away with experiences I will always hold dear and friends that I still talk to everyday. If you're looking for an experience a little outside of your comfort zone, look into Arcadia: SA. You will not regret it!