My first semester of study abroad in South Africa, Rhodes University, was filled with challenges and cherished memories. Living and studying in another country was bound to be filled with unexpected experiences, ones that I’ve learnt huge amounts from and others that have made great stories to tell my family and friends back home. Now that I can take a breather from exams and assignments, and enjoy exploring more of South Africa before the next semester starts, I’ve been thinking of the ‘silver linings’ of all that I encountered in the last six months. So, here we go with top six things study abroad threw at me..
1) PROTESTS! I had the “fortune” of witnessing “history in the making”, as I was reminded by my peers, as protests against the South African government and universities disrupted most of the second term of my first semester. Engaging in conversation with my peers, res-mates, tutors and lecturers about the #FeesMustFall protest issues, South African politics and the legacies of South Africa’s apartheid past whilst living amid the action itself was an eye-opening (albeit sometimes frightening) experience. It added a new dimension to my time on Study Abroad, one that I am grateful for and will always be ready and willing to talk about.
2) Res-life! Living with 72 girls in a residence hall and sharing a dining hall with three more girls’ residences was certainly different from my experience of living on campus in my first year at York. Although maybe a little stricter, this allowed me to meet students from all years, all walks of life and make me feel part of a family. My John Kotze family! <3 With whom I shared Karaoke Nights, weekend trips and late night revision sessions.
3) Home-sickness! My new Rhodes friends and fellow exchange mates made missing England and friends and family a whole lot easier, as well as the support from the International Office at Rhodes. Home-sickness is bound to affect everyone at some point in their Study Abroad experience but keeping a balance between talking to people at home and making the most of my experience overseas was my way of coping at these low points.
4)A tree-planting festival! Though I love the outdoors, I would have never have seen myself at a tree-planting festival before this experience. But when the opportunity arose to see the beautiful town of Hogsback in the Amathole Mountains in the Eastern Cape of South Africa, with friends, camping, morning yoga and live music, I could never have turned it down. And I’m very glad I didn’t!
5) Balancing a new work-load! This semester threw at me 26 assignments, which was not what I’d gotten used to at York! Yet, with LOADS more contact hours and daily contact with lecturers, I enjoyed my modules far more than I anticipated and achieved marks I didn’t know I was capable of. Win-win!
6) Living in the small town of Grahamstown. Studying in a relatively remote part of South Africa meant I had to try a little bit harder to keep up the hobbies I already had and to find new ones to make up for the lack of shops, a cinema and .. .everything really! However, luckily I found the BEST Beyonce/ Old School Sbhujwa dance workshops which soon became the highlight of my week. Grahamstown also has its own Saturday morning park runs and lots of community events which quickly made it a home-away-from home.
There has been ups and downs, uncertainties and shut downs but I wouldn’t change my experience in South Africa so far for anything and I’m actually looking forward to the surprises to come in the next semester. Hold tight for my next six months on study abroad….