What things are like

This is a basic overview of what things are like here in South Africa and what I am doing. The information on this page came straight from here, so go ahead and read the full post in context if you would like!

Student Group situation

I am in a study abroad group with 12 other students from all over the U.S. None of them are from my school. We are all here through a program called “International Studies Abroad” (ISA) that is enrolling us as students in the University of Cape Town.

Living situation

All of the ISA students are living in a student housing building called “The Nest”. It is not on the college campus (it’s about a 20 – 30 minute walk away). Each of the rooms are really tiny with just a bed and some other basic furnishings in them. Pairs of rooms are set together in a square pattern with a narrow kitchen and bathroom connecting them. So I do have a roommate in a room across from me, but he is not an ISA student. He is a student here on an 8-week summer program doing an internship as “service-learning”. He’s been here for most of his time already and will be leaving in a couple of weeks. We get along just fine but he spends most of his time out drinking with friends so I don’t see him a much outside of the afternoons.

We have a limited amount of electricity and slow Internet that we are allowed to use each month at the Nest, and we are also supposed to keep water usage to a minimum. As such, video calls can’t really happen unless I am at some other place that has free Wi-Fi, and to watch video content of any kind it has to be downloaded in advance before getting to our housing.

The school

For the next five months I will be attending the University of Cape Town (UCT) as an international student. UCT is Africa’s oldest, and most premier university. It’s essentially the top Ivy League school for the entire continent of Africa, so everyone wants to go here but the school is very selective and doesn’t care about helping people attending here unless they’re the best of the best. Some people call it “the Harvard of Africa”. The high academic atmosphere breeds a lot pretentiousness in the students and faculty that I don’t like, but I am super grateful to be getting the opportunity to be going here. The campus is MASSIVE, especially compared to George Fox, and I am really glad to be able to participate in the large school experience for a short time but not have to do it for all four years of my college career. Coming here has made me realize how much I have taken for granted George Fox’s “Be Known” promise that they have, where the professors actually care about you and everyone on campus feels super friendly and approachable.

Climate

It is South Africa’s winter right now, so it is pretty cold here. However, I had been warned that the temperatures dip really low and to be prepared for an extra cold environment, but in reality it hasn’t been any worse than Oregon winters (in fact, it’s been slightly warmer than those). What is different than Oregon, though, is that it is very humid here so you feel wet all the time even though it is cold. Everything you touch feels damp, and the dorm rooms get especially cold and wet, even more so than outside. This is compounded by the fact that the rooms also don’t have any heating.

The City

I am living in Cape Town, which is a huge city with around 4 million people and being here makes Portland not even feel like a city. All the cities in the U.S. have such wide streets and everything is arranged in a very grid-like manner, but being here reminds me more of Jerusalem where there isn’t a single straight street in the whole city and everything is shoved so closely together with gaggles people everywhere. In Portland it’s not hard to find a street where you are the only one walking on it, but here that is nigh impossible with so many bodies moving around all the time. I really like this kind of place, actually, but the only downside to it is that I don’t feel particularly safe to walk around on my own without getting assaulted or robbed. South Africa has an unemployment rate of over 28% right now and it has been getting especially dangerous because the country just got out of the administration of an incredibly corrupt President who was finally forced out of office. Once I get more comfortable with the environment I’m sure I will be more okay with taking short trips in the area around our living accommodations, but right now I don’t want to move about on my own at all.