“It’s all part of the experience,” is the mantra that I constantly repeated to myself during my first three weeks in Cape Town. The turn of every corner held a new surprise whether it was a breath-taking view from the top of Lions Head mountain or a pigeon pooping on the middle of my forehead in downtown Cape Town. I tried to come into this experience with no expectations, but simply an open mind. For a while, this mantra got me through and I was able to put every experience I had into a positive light.
Slowly, I began to exit the “honeymoon” phase of culture shock and come into the second phase, mainly comprised of frustrations. At this period of time, the differences between South Africa and the United States began to feel overwhelming and truly frustrating. I began to regret my decision to study abroad for a whole semester. However, because of preparation on the part of IUB and CIEE, my host institution here in Cape Town, I was able identify that what I was experiencing would most likely be the pit of my time abroad and that it would eventually pass.
Luckily, these feelings came right before a public holiday and long weekend. I had planned a trip with some friends for the long weekend and I was hoping it would rejuvenate me. Thankfully the trip did serve as a good departure from the little stresses of everyday life in Cape Town and allowed me to see some other parts of South Africa. The Garden Route Tour (something everyone studying abroad in South Africa should do!) was compiled of adventurous activities like bungee jumping, elephant rides, lion walks, and cave exploring.
As the weekend concluded, I was forced to realize that the school year had really started and that midterms were slowly approaching. I’ve spent the time since then readjusting to life at the University of Cape Town and trying to figure out how to manage my studies and the experience of being abroad. Although school in the states is just starting, here at UCT we are nearing the halfway point of the semester. Even with five weeks of experience under my belt I still haven’t totally mastered the balance of work and play.
The UCT “spring break” is next week and I hope to return to classes from my Cape Town “stay-cation” feeling rejuvenated and ready to conquer the last six weeks of the semester!