Letters from Cape Town

By Students Studying Abroad

Join UConn students in Cape Town, South Africa, as they experience a new culture and learn about global citizenship in theory and in practice.

Kelsey Preparing to Teach and Learn

Kelsey.

Reading over my last blog entry, I realized just how much really has happened since then. It’s amazing how one week here can easily feel like two. There were two things in particular that really stood out to me this past week: the experience of going to the beach, and starting my internship.

I officially started my internship today!! I had the most incredible first day I’d ever hoped to have! I wasn’t really nervous going into today, because I’ve been mentally preparing myself for this internship for months. I was mostly excited to meet the students, start getting to know them and the other staff, and even exercise my own skills of teaching. At Thandokhulu, I am working with the head of the history department Ms. Mtiya (or Nina as I call her). Our day started with teaching a grade 10 class about the Ming dynasty of China. Her method of teaching is so different from anything I’ve ever experienced before. When interpreting context for the students she would do so in a way that directly reflected the culture and social aspects of South Africa. She was describing the four different classes/rankings of the dynasty; however, she did so by relating it to race. She said that the classes set up a hierarchy that was wrong, just like that of races and how there’s a social ranking making whites superior. She then held out her arm and asked me to hold out mine, while explaining that we all bleed the same color and that “in the Lord’s eyes we are all equal too.” I was shocked in the best way possible, because in those four minutes of her explanation were two concepts that American school systems rarely speak about: religion and race. Those “forbidden” concepts to my home high school felt so comfortable and easy to talk about at Thandokhulu. Even more so, the way that the classroom was structured made me feel almost as though I was in church. When Nina was teaching, the students would frequently say yes to show comprehension, without ever being asked to, but it was extremely natural. It happened in every classroom I was a part of. I found it really neat to be able to draw these parallels between the high school I graduated from and the one I am currently becoming a part of.

And now for the beach. It wasn’t so much the beach itself that amazed me besides the scenery – it was more of my journey to the beach. Although I did try surfing, which I was really proud of myself for doing because I now know that surfing just isn’t my sport – too much wave fighting going on and my muscles got way too sore. Anyways, we bought first-class tickets for the train ride because we were told it’s safer and more comfortable. However, us being the sometimes unfocused people we are, got on the wrong, regular ones. As a result, we were crammed, shoved, and pushed in all directions getting on. Once we were all inside, we all became sardines. I had sweat on me from people on all angles, but it didn’t freak me out as much as I would have thought. I ended up being right by the door, and a guy decided he wanted to keep the door propped open with his body. So not only was I crammed but now I had to hold the top of the door to keep myself from falling out of the moving train. However, I think I’m making it out to be scarier than it was. It was a bit nerve racking at first, but after that I was so happy for the experience. In a strange way, I felt liberated and refreshed from the crazy sardine can behind me. Amidst all this, I ended up having a conversation with some of the people on the train, which was really nice. Half an hour later, we arrived at the most beautiful beach I have ever seen.

To wrap things up, I can’t wait to continue my internship. I have a feeling I’m going to become insanely attached to Thandokhulu, but it’s a pretty amazing feeling. My final note is that I get to teach my first lesson plan tomorrow!! Now to prepare for the Mughal Empire …